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The Government’s alternative R&D plans if unable to associate with Horizon Europe

By August 5, 2022August 16th, 2022No Comments

The Government regrets that the UK’s association to Horizon Europe has not yet been formalised as a result of disagreements related to the NI Protocol and recognises the huge toll that this has placed on the UK’s research and business community. To mitigate the impact of the uncertainty, the Government developed the Horizon Europe guarantee in November 2021 – which ensures funding to researchers and innovators unable to receive their Horizon Europe funding while the UK is in the process of associating to the programme – and has been extended to the end of 2022.

The Government have concluded that the UK’s access to Horizon Europe now looks unlikely – which is why alternative measures are now being considered – but remain committed to joining should the EU’s position change. Regardless, the Government remain committed to fully supporting the science and innovation sector’s ambitions to ensure the UK remains a life sciences superpower. A full-scale, ambitious alternative will be announced if association is not guaranteed soon, bolstered by a range of transitional measures to quickly stabilise the UK business and research community.

The UK’s vision for a Horizon Europe alternative includes the fastest ever sustained uplift in R&D funding, reaching £20 billion per annum by the end of the current spending review period. BEIS and its partner organisations’ £39.8 billion war chest will be utilised to invest across a range of priority areas spanning fundamental research, talent, innovation and infrastructure. The existing budget for Horizon Europe in the 2021 Spending Review will be reinvested in existing R&D programmes to foster innovation, support UK talent and drive collaboration with international partners. The development of these programmes is under constant review and will be shared shortly, but are likely to include:

  • A flagship talent offer, including high-value long-term fellowships, which will build on embrace the success of the ERC and MSCA and provide increased funding and incentives to retain outstanding talent in the UK
  • A global collaboration programme to support bottom-up collaborations with researchers in partner countries around the globe; multilateral and bilateral collaborations; and Third Country Participation in Horizon Europe
  • An increase in end-to-end innovation investment, specifically in industrial research and innovation, to meet the UK’s strategic priorities and cultivate new and emerging technologies
  • Complementing existing investments in the wider R&D sphere through developing infrastructure and digital research capacity and furthering emerging UK clusters. High Education institutions will also receive a cash injection to alleviate strains on researchers

The Government’s ultimate aim is to retain the outstanding features of Horizon Europe in its new strategy, while accelerating work on the UK’s priorities, such as making systems easier to use and less bureaucratic and boosting R&D funding outside of the Southeast by 2030.

The transitional measures, which are to be delivered swiftly if association with Horizon Europe is not achieved, are as follows:

  • The Government will cover any eligible outstanding, evaluated applications via the Horizon Europe guarantee, and will also support UK entities with in-flight applications to Horizon Europe. Additionally, they will assess such eligible unevaluated ERC, MSCA and European Innovation Council (EIC) applications domestically via UKRI, to ensure the best research and innovation gets funded
  • Third Country Participation, available through Horizon Europe without association, will still provide excellent research and innovation collaboration between the UK and the EU and the UK will support funding opportunities from Horizon Europe calls as part of consortia with partners from EU member states or associated countries. Grants, funded by UKRI, will be signed until 31 March 2025, an announcement will be made in October 2024 regarding funding beyond this date
  • The Government will make additional funding available for their most prestigious existing schemes for attracting, retaining and supporting talent via the National Academies, and UKRI supporting researchers to carry out their work in the UK
  • The Government will increase funding for existing Innovate UK schemes to provide support for innovative businesses, which can currently apply to the EIC Accelerator. These schemes will be tailored to align with UK business needs. Funding will also be increased for the global Eureka network and Innovate UK’s international bilateral research and innovation fund
  • The Government will launch the Talent and Research Stabilisation Fund that will allow institutions across the UK to strengthen their local talent retention plans and invest in their local research strategies as the UK pivots towards its new global offering. The fund will target those institutions worst affected by the loss of Horizon Europe’s talent funding and will be paid directly to research institutions through formula funding by UKRI in quarterly installments

The full policy paper can be accessed here.

Natalie Creaney