The Horizon 2020 programme of EU Business Innovation Funding comes to an end in 2020. It will have put £77bn into a vast array of European R&D projects. The next step is Horizon Europe, a seven year, £100bn investment programme in Europe’s scientific R&D.
Will the UK be able to join in after leaving the EU?
This is the most obvious, urgent concern among the UK’s scientific community questioning will the UK still be able to participate?
Both the UK Prime Minister and the EU Science and Research Commissioner have said that they feel the UK should be able to contribute to, and benefit from, this huge EU R&D programme. It’s not just the financial investment, the benefits of the accompanying support network are enormous for those who receive an EU Business Innovation Grant.
As reported in the Financial Times, Theresa May said, Britain should have “…a far-reaching science and innovation pact with the EU, facilitating the exchange of ideas and researchers”. And there is no argument from Carlos Moedas, “It is very important for the UK and it is very important for the EU to have a relationship in science and innovation. We have had that relationship for so long.”
He also provided reassurance that the regulations for Horizon Europe will include the ability for other countries to be included as associate members as they have previously done for Israel and Switzerland and this would include the UK.
So, we can still be involved…
Yes, the UK and the European Commission are working on a way for Britain to still be included in Horizon Europe. But we will have different, less beneficial status. Caveats to the new scheme will include proportioning the amount of funding alongside how much a country is paying in. In the current programme, which runs until 2020, Britain has received the second largest amount of funding of all the countries involved, totaling 15% of available funds. It is very unlikely that such an opportunity will be part of an ‘associate’ status, without there being a substantial increase in our membership fee to contend with.
There is also the programme’s commitment to “driving economic growth in [the EU] through innovation” to consider. The rules may allow the majority to exclude countries outside Europe from projects on this basis. So our level of participation could be limited, depending on the type of project.
There is no certain conclusion until the wider implications of Brexit are decided. Unfortunately, this leaves us and our European colleagues in the position of planning for every eventuality. The joint intention of continuing to work together is very positive. The practicalities of how this will impact on our R&D growth potential is still a matter for the future.