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UK to rejoin EU’s Horizon science programme

07 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Photo David Davies. PA Images

The UK is to return to the European Union’s £85 billion Horizon research programme in a breakthrough welcomed by scientists who were frozen out of the scheme in a row over post-Brexit rules.

Researchers based in the UK can from Thursday apply for grants to take part in the collaboration programme after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak secured what he called “the right deal for British taxpayers”.

According to the EU’s estimate, Britain will contribute around £2.2 billion (almost 2.6 billion euros) per year to participate in both Horizon and the Copernicus space programme from January 1 when its association membership with the projects begins.

But it will not take part in the bloc’s nuclear technology scheme, Euratom.

With costs having been a key barrier for negotiators to overcome, the UK will not have to pay into the scheme for the two years it was frozen out in a tit-for-tat retaliation in a dispute over post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland in 2020.


The Government said the deal includes a “clawback” mechanism, which means the UK will be compensated if British scientists receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the programme.

Mr Sunak said: “With a wealth of expertise and experience to bring to the global stage, we have delivered a deal that enables UK scientists to confidently take part in the world’s largest research collaboration programme – Horizon Europe.

“We have worked with our EU partners to make sure that this is right deal for the UK, unlocking unparalleled research opportunities, and also the right deal for British taxpayers.”

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who signed off on the deal with the Prime Minister in a call on Wednesday, 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 move was immediately welcomed by scientists after years of warnings that UK researchers have been missing out on collaboration with colleagues in the EU.

Sir Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society, said it is “fantastic news”.

“Science has so much to offer in terms of tackling global challenges and improving lives. Today the Government and the EU have given that a big boost,” he said.


Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, said he is “thrilled to finally see that partnerships with EU scientists can continue”.

“This is an essential step in rebuilding and strengthening our global scientific standing,” he added.

“Thank you to the huge number of researchers in the UK and across Europe who, over many years, didn’t give up on stressing the importance of international collaboration for science.”

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said it will be “overwhelmingly in the best interests of cancer patients and scientists”.

Universities UK president Professor Dame Sally Mapstone said: “Allowing our scientists to work together, irrespective of borders, is in all of our interests.

“Our universities will now do everything possible to ensure the UK rapidly bounces back towards previous levels of participation and is able to secure genuine value, delivering the wealth of research opportunities available.”

Horizon is a collaboration involving Europe’s leading research institutes and technology companies.

EU member states contribute funds, which are then allocated to individuals or organisations on merit to explore subjects such as climate change, medical advances and artificial intelligence.

Months of negotiations between London and Brussels on Britain’s return followed the signing of the Windsor Framework deal, agreed in February and designed to address concerns over post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Science Secretary Michelle Donelan said the Horizon programme is “unrivalled in its scope”, adding that it is a “fantastic day” for British science and technology.

Newly-appointed shadow science secretary Peter Kyle told broadcasters that ministers now need to “get on with it”.

“What we’re missing out on is two years’ worth of innovation,” the Labour MP said.

“Two years of global companies looking around the world for where to base their research centres and choosing other countries than Britain, because we are not part of Horizon… This is two years of wasted opportunity for us as a country.

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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago

Listen to Sunak taking credit for repairing one wire in a huge loom of them that he helped to cut through and destroy. Perhaps he’d care to connect a few more wires while he’s there like the ones labelled ‘customs union’ and ‘single market’. Maybe then the motor will start running again.

7 months ago

Is it just me or was brexit a really bad idea ? Research and innovation is everything, we’re lucky they let us back in . What galls me most though is when politicians laud the very things we had in the first place .If their so wonderful now then they were equally wonderful when the very same politicians dismissed them and told us to leave. Backtracking and double standards by the bucket load ! Have they any shame?

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark

No it’s not just you and no they do not have any shame.

7 months ago

Hooray. We have new unparalelled opportunities to do what we could always do before Brexit!
In other news, burglar kindly gifts a burgled family with some of their own stuff

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
7 months ago

Bit by bit the UK is beginning to integrate itself, once again, with the EU. And so it should. European countries have to work together if the continent is to meet the challenges of the future. Brexit was always an absolutely stupid and foolish thing to do.

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