UK will rejoin EU's Horizon science research programme in 'right deal' for the country

7 September 2023, 07:17 | Updated: 7 September 2023, 07:48

The UK will rejoin the European Union's £85 billion Horizon science research programme
The UK will rejoin the European Union's £85 billion Horizon science research programme. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The UK will rejoin the European Union's £85 billion Horizon science research programme after months of talks.

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A "bespoke" new agreement has been signed off with the EU, with UK researchers able to apply for grants and take part in Horizon projects, the government said. It follows months of talks between London and Brussels.

The UK will be participating as a fully associated member for the remaining life of both the Horizon programme and the EU's space programme, Copernicus, to 2027.

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

PM Rishi Sunak said: "Innovation has long been the foundation for prosperity in the UK, from the breakthroughs improving healthcare to the technological advances growing our economy.

"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."

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.

Britain continued to participate under the post-Brexit trade deal brokered with Brussels but was frozen out in retaliation over disputes over the Northern Ireland agreement.

Under the terms of the deal, the UK will not need to pay into the scheme for the two years it was absent.

British costs under the programme will begin again in January 2024.

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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.

The move has been welcomed by scientists, amid warnings that UK researchers have been missing out on collaboration with colleagues in the EU.

Professor Paul Stewart, Academy of Medical Sciences vice president of clinical, said: "Today marks 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.

"By associating to Horizon Europe, we now have the commitment and momentum to drive forward the Government's vision for an innovative, high growth future and are well placed to support the diverse and highly skilled research talent that underpins our life sciences sector.

"Health research is an international endeavour, it relies on supporting the best ideas, but also on creating cross-border networks which is good news for the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.

"Association sends a very strong message that the UK is open for business and remains a prime destination to work on health research and innovation to improve lives."

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