Policy paper sets out path should UK science lose access to EU research initiatives

2 August 2022 | Muriel Cozier

The UK government looks to reassure the science community as it commits to support R&D if the UK cannot join European Union research programmes

The UK government has published a much anticipated policy paper setting out how the UK will transition to new R&D programmes if it is unable to associate with the European Union (EU) science and research initiatives: Horizon Europe, Copernicus, Euratom Research & Training, and Fusion for Energy programmes.

In a statement, the UK government’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, stressed the government’s desire was to remain part of the EU’s science initiatives.

Citing the delay in formalising the UK’s association with the programmes as agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, Kwarteng said:

‘I am concerned that the continued delays are causing intolerable uncertainty for our research and business community. To help minimise the uncertainty and signal our good faith commitment to association, the government set out our Horizon Europe guarantee in November 2021, and then extended it to the end of this year.’

Kwasi Kwarteng
UK Government Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (above) stressed that the UK government's priority was to remain part of the EU's research initiatives.

Kwarteng added: ‘Should the UK not be able to associate with Horizon Europe, our immediate focus must be on transitional measures to protect and stabilise the sector.’

The policy paper: Supporting UK R&D and collaborative research beyond European Programmes, sets out the transitional measures, with detail on each, as well as an overview of a long-term vision for Horizon Europe. It also sets out the vision for Copernicus and Euratom UK alternatives.

Responding to the policy paper, Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said: ‘We have always been very clear that association to Horizon Europe is the best outcome for science in the UK and Europe.’

Sir Adrian welcomed the government’s commitment to sharing and consulting with the science community. ‘Should it be necessary, a new collaborative research programme must be clear, credible and costed. The community will need to see full detail on how [the] government will invest the £2 billion a year in UK R&D if we do not associate.’

Also welcoming the policy paper, CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Helen Pain, said: ‘We are pleased to see that association to Horizon Europe continues to be the government’s preferred option, as this would be best for the chemical sciences and wider research and innovation community, a point we have repeatedly made. It is also good to see that the publication provides some detail on its longer-term thinking for Horizon Europe alternatives.’

Helen Pain
CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Helen Pain, echoed the preference for the UK's association to Horizon Europe to remain in place. Image: Royal Society of Chemistry

During this year’s Parliamentary Links Day, held on 28 June, there was much discussion on the UK government’s position on Horizon Europe. Speaking at the event, then Minister for Science Research and Innovation George Freeman, said:

‘If we are not able to join the European research programmes […] we will simply have to do more internationally. There is a wall of appetite to work with us. All around the world nations are saying “we would love to work with you”. I am hoping we can stay in Horizon Europe, but if not I am working with the treasury to ring fence all that money and commit to a more global programme of science and research.’

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