UK rejoins EU Horizon scheme as Rishi Sunak strikes major Brexit deal

The UK has rejoined the European Union’s Horizon scheme after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak struck a deal with Ursula von der Leyen. The Horizon scheme is one of the EU’s key funding programmes for research and innovation.

The UK will officially rejoin Horizon on New Year’s Day, 2024, when it becomes an “associated country”. As part of the scheme, British researchers will be able to participate on the same terms as European researchers.

On Monday, the final step towards the UK rejoining the programme was completed when the EU-UK Specialised Committee on Participation in the Union Programmes finalised the political agreement.

As a result of the agreement, the UK will have closer ties with the EU allowing it to expand its research and innovation programmes.

Together, the UK and the EU will bring together research communities to help tackle major problems such as health crises and climate change.

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Under the new agreement, the UK will contribute €2.43 billion per year and roughly €154 million for participation in Copernicus. Copernicus is the Earth observation part of the EU’s space programme which tries to assess the planet in a way that benefits everyone living on it.

A joint statement about the UK rejoining Horizon published in September said: “Association to Horizon Europe will further strengthen and deepen links between the scientific communities in the UK and the EU, foster innovation and enable researchers to work together on global challenges from climate to health.

“The UK Government and the European Commission look forward to enabling collaboration between their researchers in which the UK and the EU share a mutual interest, such as in new and emerging technologies. To this end, the EU will assess UK participants’ access to strategic parts of the Horizon Europe programme on equal terms with other associated countries.

“The association of the UK to Copernicus will enable the UK’s access to a state-of-the-art capacity to monitor the Earth and to its services. The UK’s association to Copernicus comes at a crucial moment, where the Copernicus space infrastructure and its information services will evolve further and their contribution to understanding and acting on environmental and climate change-related challenges is more important than ever.”

The statement added: “The UK will also have access to EU Space Surveillance and Tracking services. In line with the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the European Commission and the UK Government have also agreed to appropriate terms regarding the UK’s financial contribution for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 reflecting the fact that UK researchers did not participate in Horizon Europe or Copernicus from their beginning in 2021.”

On the finalisation of this agreement, THE Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan said: “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.

“The UK led a quarter of the work we were involved in through Horizon’s predecessor, so we know from recent history the importance of the UK’s skills and expertise in making this programme work.” Ms Donela said it was “vital that we seize this moment”.

Ms Donelan added: “Now it is essential that we bring our science, research and business communities together with their EU and global partners to deliver the benefits from our bespoke Horizon and Copernicus deal, from our share of the 300,000 new jobs Horizon aims to create, to the untold advances it will unlock for our health, the environment and more.

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The Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Illilana Ivanova said: “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 the association of non-EU countries to Horizon Europe my personal priority, and we are delivering.”

President of the British Academy, Professor Julia Black, also welcomed the move. She said: “From researchers embarking onto the early stages of their career, to cross-disciplinary teams collaborating to tackle key issues, to research bodies and funders like us: we all welcome today’s Association to Horizon Europe.

“It is particularly welcome for UK-based humanities and social sciences researchers who have traditionally had a strong record of success and collaboration in EU Framework Programmes for Research & Innovation, including through the world-leading European Research Council. We strongly encourage researchers, businesses and innovators across the broad arc of our disciplines to seek out the opportunities opened up by the Association. They carry with them tangible, long-term benefits for people and society.”

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