The announcement, made on March 15, means that successful UK-based applicants to Horizon Europe will be guaranteed funding regardless of whether or not the UK formally associates with it, a process that is still underway.
The news came as the government set out plans for its “largest ever” research and development budget, which business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said will secure “the UK’s position as a science superpower”.
Some £6.8bn of the UK’s £39.8bn research and development budget has been allocated to support the UK’s association with Horizon Europe, Euratom Research & Training, and Fusion for Energy.
If the association with Horizon Europe fails to be formalised, some of this funding will be used to support successful UK-based applicants to Horizon Europe in an extension of a guarantee the government made last November to “first-wave” applicants.
“Association would be a win-win for the UK and our international collaborators”
Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, said the announcement provides “welcome clarity” while calling for the association to be finalised as soon as possible.
“Association would be a win-win for the UK and our international collaborators at a time when cooperation across Europe is more vital than ever,” Bradshaw said.
Christopher Smith, International Champion at UK Research and Innovation said the organisation is “working hard to set up the systems needed to distribute this funding”, with second wave funding routes set to open from May.
The UK’s association to Horizon Europe was agreed as part of Brexit negotiations in December 2020 and the government says it is ready to formalise this “at the earliest opportunity” but blames the EU for delays, saying that these have led to “uncertainty” for researchers.
An EU Commission spokesperson responded to this criticism, telling The PIE News that it recognises the “mutual benefit in cooperation in science, research and innovation” but that there are “serious difficulties in the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement”.
“The Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides neither for a specific obligation for the Union to associate the United Kingdom to Union Programs at this point in time nor for a precise deadline to do so,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to a prompt resolution that would allow the establishment of the association to Union programs, and that would enhance the cooperation opportunities in research, space and other areas.”
The government’s research and development budget has also allocated £25bn across the next three years to UK Research & Innovation and has increased the budget of the UK Space Agency to over £600m.