The UK has officially rejoined the Horizon research programme as of 4 December 2023. The UK also joined the Copernicus research programme following a visit in Brussels from Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan.
The deal is set to create and support thousands of new jobs and will help deliver PM Rishi Sunak’s ambition to cement the UK as a science and technology superpower by 2030.
“Being part of Horizon and Copernicus is a colossal win for the UK’s science, research and business communities, as well as for economic growth and job creation – all part of the long-term decisions the UK government is taking to secure a brighter future,” said Donelan.
As part of the new deal, Sunak secured improved financial terms of association to Horizon that are said to increase the benefits to UK scientists and bring value for money for the UK taxpayer.
UK taxpayers will not pay for the time where UK researchers have been excluded from Horizon since 2021, with costs starting from January 2024.
“I am happy to welcome the UK back to the Horizon family. This is a real milestone, a clear win-win for both sides and for global scientific progress. Together, we can push further and faster. I have made association of non-EU countries to Horizon Europe my personal priority, and we are delivering,” said Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
Horizon is the world’s largest research cooperation programme, while Copernicus is the EU’s sophisticated Earth observation system. EU member states, Norway, Israel are represented in Horizon, with Canada to join soon. The UK previously led a quarter of the work for Horizon’s predecessor.
In total, Horizon aims to create 300,000 new jobs to unlock advances in health, the environment, and more.
“Horizon is the pre-eminent vehicle for scientific collaboration across and beyond Europe. I have no doubt that this will allow the UK’s scientific community to play their part in exceptional scientific outcomes, allowing us to tackle some of the trickiest challenges of our time,” said Adam Tickell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham.
Researchers To Bid For Share Of £80bn
Researchers, academics, and businesses of all sizes will be able to bid for a share of the more than £80 billion ($100.7 billion) available through the two programmes, with calls for the 2024 Work Programme already open.
The UK will have a new automatic clawback that protects the UK, as participation recovers from the effects of the last two and a half years. It means the UK will be compensated should UK scientists receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the programme.
“We strongly encourage researchers, businesses and innovators across the broad arc of our disciplines to seek out the opportunities opened up. They carry with them tangible, long-term benefits for people and society,” said Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy.
In a partnership with the British Academy and other key backers, support will be made available to selected UK researchers applying for Horizon for the first time, through ‘pump priming’ funding, with up to £10,000 available per application.
The funding will be available to support those researchers without previous experience of applying.
“This is a momentous day. I am beyond delighted that the UK and EU have finally signed the agreement confirming the UK’s association to Horizon. Now we are ready to shoot out of the gate and make the most of the opportunities participation in Horizon offers,” said Vivienne Stern MBE, Chief Executive of Universities UK.
The rejoining of Horizon builds on the Government’s commitment to invest £20 billion ($25.1 billion) in UK R&D by 2025, as well as a £500 million boost to the AI Research resource announced in the Autumn Statement.
It builds on the government’s record-breaking backing for R&D, with a commitment to invest £20 billion in UK R&D by 2024-25, borne out in recent announcements like the £500 million boost to the AI Research resource and £50 million for battery manufacturing R&D, announced in the Autumn Statement.
The UK will also participate in the Copernicus component of the EU Space programme. This will provide the UK’s Earth observation sector with access to unique data, which can be valuable to helping with early flood and fire warnings. Researchers will also have the ability to bid for contracts, which they have not been able to access for three years.