The UK has published its plans to replace participation by companies and universities in the EU Horizon research programme, with calls to leave research out of wider political issues.

Dr Tim Bradshaw Chief Executive of the Russell Group of 24 UK research universities wrote to Ursula von der Leyen President of the European Commission to urge confirmation of the UK in the Horizon programme.

“The UK’s association to the Horizon Europe programme is awaiting confirmation and risks falling victim to the wider political discussion around the future relationship between Britain and the European Union,” he said.

“It has been widely reported that the UK’s association will not be confirmed until the discussions around the Northern Ireland Protocol have been resolved. We believe this is a mistake. Without the UK’s full association, the programme will become less competitive, with knock-on impacts for the excellence and prestige of EU grants. Association is therefore too important to be used as part of a negotiation,” he said.

“You have the ability to ensure negotiations continue to take place while the UK participates in Horizon Europe.”

The UK government points out that the UK can be a ‘third country’ in Horizon projects and that it has committed to supporting funding for researchers in Horizon projects where the agreements are signed before the end of 2022. However UK researchers leading projects have either had to step down or move to European countries to continue participation.

“The UK government has always been clear that our departure from the European Union (EU) does not mean leaving the flagship Horizon, Copernicus, Euratom Research & Training and Fusion for Energy programmes,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the UK.

“Unfortunately, the EU has still not formalised our association to these programmes as agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), linking them to resolution of wider political discussions. I am concerned that the continued delays are causing intolerable uncertainty for our research and business community,” he said.

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“Despite widespread support for UK association across member states and the EU’s research community, association continues to look unlikely while the EU links it to wider political issues,” he said.

The UK alternative aims to attract researchers to the UK with fellowships and a ‘Talent and Research Stabilisation Fund’.

It will also increase funding for a range of innovation schemes targeted at small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), delivered by Innovate UK, and talks about new mechanisms that are bigger, bolder with less bureaucracy and more flexibility, which hints at the ARIA research agency which appointed a CEO yesterday.

More details of the UK scheme are here

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