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UK participation in Horizon Europe “not a given”

The UK’s continued participation in the recently-christened successor to Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, is not to be taken for granted according to a policy briefing by the Centre for Global Higher Education.

The University of Cambridge is one of the most successful beneficiaries of EU research funding. Photo: Christian Richardt/Wikimedia Commons

A less beneficial deal for UK HE, which Highman also predicted in a previous policy briefing, was evidenced by a draft paper of the Horizon Europe document

At €97.9 billion, the new EU science and innovation program promises “the biggest budget any research funding body has ever seen.”

“Why would the EU taxpayer continue to subsidise [research at] Oxford and Cambridge post-Brexit?”

But it comes at the time of growing uncertainty as to whether the UK wants, can afford or will be allowed to fully participate, CGHE senior researcher and author of the briefing Ludovic Highman explained.

UK research has benefited enormously from EU research programs.

In the Seventh Framework Program cycle, the UK’s contribution was in the region of €5.4bn, but it secured €8.8bn in research grants, Highman explained. As for Horizon 2020, five out of 10 of the most successful recipients are British HEIs – Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Imperial and Edinburgh.

When the new EU research budget was announced, UK HE welcomed the news and called for continued research collaboration with the EU. Around the same time, UUK published a position paper with recommendations for the Horizon 2020 successor.

Theresa May in a recent speech said the UK “would like the option” to be fully associated to Horizon Europe.

But in his policy briefing Highman said that participation will depend on Brexit negotiations and on an increased UK contribution – a topic that needs urgent clarity, he said, and could be lost in the competing post-Brexit spending priorities.

Also, as the EU parliament already indicated, Highman added, association will probably see the UK lose voting rights and decision-making power in the future direction of the program after Brexit, and possibly not make the same return of investment as in the past.

A less beneficial Brexit deal for UK HE, which Highman also predicted in a previous policy briefing, was evidenced by a draft paper of the Horizon Europe document seen by the Guardian.

“Why would the EU taxpayer continue to subsidise [research at] Oxford and Cambridge post-Brexit, already by far the wealthiest European universities, instead of their own institutions? This position is simply untenable, without an attractive UK offer to put on the table,” Highman told The PIE.

“However, there have been no signs of such an attractive offer made, or even yet discussed.”

Highman called on the government to engage with the HE sector and added that despite the sector’s advocacy efforts, their recommendations have so far fallen on deaf ears, “perhaps because of universities’ pro-Remain stance during the referendum, and the fact that there does not exist any Brexit scenario that will leave UK universities better off,” he explained.

“For example, the government’s position paper on the 9th Framework Program (Horizon Europe) makes no direct reference to consultations with the sector, which is unusual among national position papers issued by other EU member states,” he explained.

“Considering the UK higher education sector is one set to lose the most by a hard Brexit, it is unfortunately unsurprising their voice is being silenced.”

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