UK re-joins horizon project in boost for UK science services industry

Thu 7 Sept 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Scientist working with beaker in lab

The UK has re-joined the EU’s £85bn Horizon science research programme.

From today (7 September), UK researchers can once again apply for grants and bids to take part in Horizon projects.

The UK had negotiated associate membership of Horizon post-Brexit, but had been excluded from the programme after disputes arose over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Talks over associate membership had also previously been held up by disagreements on whether the UK should pay for the three years it had been excluded from the agreement.

It was eventually decided that the UK won’t pay for this time, and there will also be clawback provisions if UK scientists “receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the programme.”

Under the deal, the UK will pay £2.2bn a year until the scheme ends in 2027.

‘Right deal’

Prime minister Rishi Sunak hailed the move as the “right deal” for the country.

“Innovation has long been the foundation for prosperity in the UK, from the breakthroughs improving healthcare to the technological advances growing our economy.”

Sunak claimed that the UK had achieved a ‘bespoke’ deal.

President of the European Commission (EC), Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The EU and UK are key strategic partners and allies, and today's agreement proves that point. We will continue to be at the forefront of global science and research.”

The opposition Labour Party said it was a “relief” but added that it was already “too late” for many researchers.

Industry reacts

Leaders from the UK’s education and science services sector welcomed the news.

John Harrison, Chairman of Airbus UK, said that it was “great news” that the UK was re-joining the programme.

Professor Paul Stewart, Academy of Medical Sciences vice president, clinical, said that it was a “pivotal moment” for UK science.

“After a hiatus, the scientific community is celebrating the tremendous news that we are once more part of the EU’s flagship funding programme.”

Satellites and fusion

The UK will also be ‘associate’ to Copernicus, the European Earth Observation satellite programme, which helps with providing early warnings on fire and floods.

However, the government has said that the country will not be re-joining the EU’s Euratom fusion programme, saying that the domestic fusion sector decided to pursue a UK alternative.

Dr Nick Walkden, UK director at the Fusion Industry Association said the group welcomed the new £650m fusion programme, which he described as “ambitious.”