Get Horizon association ‘swiftly over the line’, sector urges

UK and EU must follow through on positive statement from Ursula von der Leyen, according to industry, academic and research organisations 

March 2, 2023
Brexit, EU referendum
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Industry, academic and research organisations have joined forces to urge rapid association of the UK to Horizon Europe following the agreement of the Windsor Framework.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said when she struck the deal with British prime minister Rishi Sunak that Brussels would “start immediately” working on the UK’s participation in the research funding programme once the agreement on trade rules in Northern Ireland was finalised.

Sector organisations have issued a joint statement calling for both sides to follow through on this, saying that the UK and the European Union “must now put renewed efforts into constructive dialogue to get association swiftly over the line, finally ending the damaging impasse that has lasted over two years”.

“Securing the UK’s place in EU programmes is crucial for shoring up the future of world-leading research, sustainable growth and high-level skills. Failure to do so now will be a second-best outcome for both the UK and the EU, undermining our collective efforts to tackle the big challenges of our time,” the statement says. 

“We are unequivocal that full UK membership of EU programmes, including Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom, remains the best outcome for research and innovation. This has been the UK’s clearly stated position for a long time, and it is critical that the government does not lose sight of the prize now that it is in reach.

“Now this important milestone has been reached, the EU must engage fully in technical discussions to ensure association can happen as soon as possible.”

The statement was coordinated by the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Other signatories include the League of European Research Universities, the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, the University Alliance and Universities UK. Support was also offered by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry. The Association of Medical Research Charities, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and the Wellcome Trust also gave the statement their backing.

Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, said: “The deal between the UK and EU on Northern Ireland removes the major barrier to UK participation in EU programmes, including Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom. Now is the time for politicians on both sides to take decisive action to get association over the line, ending two years of damaging uncertainty and unlocking enormous benefits to scientists and researchers on both sides of the channel.

“Even after a delayed start, full participation in EU programmes, which can sit alongside important new schemes for global research partnerships, remains the best outcome for UK research and innovation. As well as making our science superpower ambitions more tangible, being in these programmes is a big win for individuals, businesses and the public more widely who will benefit from research that leads to medical breakthroughs, new technologies and other advances in knowledge.”

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