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Horizon Europe: still a misty view for the UK

Not long time ago, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, claimed that Brexit is not the end of the world, but ‘a massive opportunity for the country’.

Whether he was right or not will be seen eventually, but so far, his decision has affected citizens in several ways, and consequently, has also affected companies since they have encountered more difficulties to participate in some programs launched by the EU, as for instance, Horizon Europe programme.

Horizon Europe and the UK

With a total budget of €95.5 billion, the EU launched in 2020 , Horizon Europe, a core funding programme designed for research and innovation that will run until 2027. Its objectives are threefold: tackling climate change, contributing to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and promoting the EU’s competitiveness and growth.

As the program has opened to more countries, the UK is expected to associate to the EU’s R&I Framework Programme Horizon Europe thanks to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the EU signed in December 2020. In this way, the UK will adopt the same rights and obligations as other countries associated to the Horizon Europe programme, which means that UK participants can apply for it.

Problems with UK applications

Even though this association is still in process, UK applicants can apply since January 2022, but still must face the difficulties and instability derived from not being yet an officially associated country, which may be discouraging for UK-based participants.  

As the UK is not formally associated with this funding program, it cannot sign grant agreements for Horizon Europe projects and thus successful UK applicants cannot receive funding from the European Commission.

Innovate UK safety net mechanism

With regards to this situation, the UK government has taken measures and has assured that UKRI– the United Kingdom Research and Innovation- will fund UK winners of Horizon Europe if delays to the UK association continue.

This decision was made on November 2021 as a way to fight the existing uncertainty. In this way, it has been guaranteed that successful applicants to Horizon Europe unable to sign grant agreements with the EU will receive funding from UKRI.

This measure will provide some stability for UK researchers while this uncertainty persists, but only in the short-term. If the association fails, however, the funding allocated to Horizon association will go to UK government R&D programmes.

In addition, the government started to look for new solutions in 2020, and alternative plans include continued support for international research, innovation collaboration and domestic research support.

Future perspectives

Brexit has made politics more tedious in Europe and most researchers and innovators in the UK are suffering the consequences, especially regarding Horizon Europe programme, since the UK has not yet become an associated country.

It is expected that sooner or later the UK will finally become an official associated country, but until that time, the UK must keep on contemplating a horizon laden with clouds of uncertainty.

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