THE support provided to UK Horizon Europe applicants while the UK is in the process of associating to the programme, has been extended for a further three months until the end of September 2023, the UK government has announced.
The extension will ensure that eligible, successful UK applicants will receive the full value of their funding at their UK host institution for the lifetime of their grant, meaning that successful awardees do not need to leave the UK to receive this funding.
The government said it remains in discussion on the UK’s involvement in EU research programmes and hopes that negotiations on Horizon Europe will be successful. However, “our participation must be fair for UK researchers, businesses and taxpayers and reflect the lasting impact of two years of EU delays to the UK’s association,” ministers said.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is delivering the funding through its grant systems on behalf of the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT), and as of the end of April 2023, has issued over 2,000 grant offers worth £1.05bn (US$1.35bn).
Science and technology secretary Chloe Smith said: “This extension offers certainty to our world-class researchers that they will receive the support they need to continue their ground-breaking work, building on the over £1bn in support awarded so far, while negotiations over association to Horizon Europe remain ongoing.”
The debate over the UK’s involvement in Horizon Europe has been ongoing since the country officially left the EU over two years ago. While the EU agreed to the UK participating in the research funding programme, and the Copernicus earth and space observation programme, on the condition that a contribution of €15bn in funding was made, participation was then blocked by the European Commission over Northern Ireland trade rules.
The resulting impasse with UK ministers was a seen as a blow to UK science, as between 2014 and 2016 – before Brexit – UK organisations took part in more Horizon projects than organisations from any other member state, and was one of the primary beneficiaries of the funding between 2014–2020.
In a bid to prepare for complete exclusion should talks with the EU surrounding membership with the Horizon Europe scheme end in failure, earlier this year the government announced its “Pioneer” programme, a long-term strategy to support research and innovation in the UK.
Originally dubbed “Horizon Plan B”, the replacement scheme offers the same amount of funding as the government would have paid to associate to Horizon from 2021 to 2027. However, despite the promise of significant funding, many researchers reiterated the preference for full association with the EU, pointing out that uncertainties regarding current funding streams outside of Horizon was still an issue.
Funding for sciences was later called into question when it was revealed that £1.6bn earmarked to fund association with Europe’s Horizon programme had been returned to the Treasury, prompting concerns over the government’s commitment to making the UK a “science superpower”.
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