Beyond the Horizon...

C&I Issue 5, 2023

Read time: 1-2 mins

Muriel Cozier

The UK government has set out a plan to ‘protect and support the UK’s research and innovation sector’, as discussions with the European Commission concerning access to Horizon Europe continue.

Positioned as a back-up, should the UK not secure Horizon association on ‘fair and appropriate terms’, the Pioneer programme has been produced in consultation with the UK science, research, technology and innovation sectors. 

If implemented, the programme will work alongside existing initiatives, government departments and funding partners, in partnership with UK universities and businesses, to strengthen global research collaboration. The programme comprises four pillars, which focus on investment in discovery, research and talent; enhancing and establishing new international partnerships; supporting business-led innovation; and funding UK research infrastructure.

Pioneer would receive the same amount of funding as the UK would have paid to associate with Horizon, had the UK joined from 2021 to 2027 – meaning the government would make some £14.6bn available to Pioneer until the end of 2027/28. 

A programme prospectus was published in April 2023 as Michelle Donelan, UK Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, and Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research Culture, Education and Youth, met in Brussels to discuss Horizon association.

In a statement following the talks, Donelan said: ‘We hope our negotiations are successful, and that is our preference, but it must be on the right terms. We must ensure we have an ambitious alternative ready to go should we need it, and that our businesses and researchers have fed into it.’

Consensus among the science community remains that association with Horizon is the desired outcome, but the Pioneer prospectus has been broadly welcomed. 

Tim Bradshaw, CEO of the Russell Group said: ‘The ambition of the proposals for Pioneer is welcome … However, we have always been clear that it will be a challenge to replicate the full benefits of the world’s largest collaborative research programme, with ready-made routes for talent flow, facilities access and collaboration with multiple countries.’

The Government has invited comments on the Pioneer prospectus to be emailed to