On September 7, the government announced the UK is to rejoin the EU’s flagship Horizon Europe science programme after a two-year post-Brexit standoff. The deal will allow UK researchers and institutions to apply for grants from the European Research Council (ERC) and collaborate with EU counterparts after the two-year break.
The good news was celebrated this week at the University of Cambridge at an informal lunch reception. Dozens of ERC-funded and awarded researchers joined the ERC’s president, Professor Maria Leptin, and Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and International Partnerships.
The reception was planned after the government announced the UK would regain access to Horizon, the world’s largest research collaboration programme, and Copernicus, the European Earth Observation programme.
The UK was excluded from Horizon following Brexit due to a disagreement over the Northern Ireland Protocol. However, the resolution of that dispute with the new Windsor Framework in February 2023 paved the way for the country to rejoin the programme.
The UK will be an associate member of Horizon, which means that having the same rights and responsibilities as other non-EU members, such as Switzerland and Norway. This includes the right to apply for grants, participate in project consortia, and lead projects.
It’s expected the UK will contribute around £6.5 billion to the Horizon programme over the next seven years, in return for which it will be able to access grants worth up to £13 billion. The UK government has also agreed to a €800 million discount to compensate for being locked out of the programme for almost three years.
Rejoining Horizon is a huge boost
Rejoining Horizon is seen as a significant boost for British science and innovation. The programme is the world’s largest research and innovation funding programme, with a budget of €95.5 billion over seven years. It supports research in a wide range of areas, including climate change, health, and digital technologies.
Participation in Horizon will allow British researchers to collaborate with the best minds in Europe and access cutting-edge facilities. It will also help the UK to attract investment in research and innovation.
Addressing the Cambridge event, Professor Ferguson-Smith said: “It’s hard to express the joy we’ve all been feeling at the announcement of the UK’s association to Horizon Europe and Copernicus.
“It really is cause for celebration because this is a decision that will have enormous benefit to the whole UK research landscape.
Importance of the ERC
The professor welcomed back Professor Maria Leptin, who is no stranger to Cambridge. She emphasised the importance of the ERC to the university, not just because of the way it supports fundamental research but because of the way it helps nurture both early career researchers, and those at subsequent stages, giving them the freedom to do important, original work.
Professor Leptin also addressed the event, saying: “It’s good to be back in Cambridge, I love being here. It’s especially good to see so many researchers from across sciences and humanities gathered here today.
“It’s great that we are back together like this, because this is about the unity of research from across Europe.”
The UK’s rejoining of Horizon Europe has been universally welcomed. It’s seen as vital not just for the development of the scientific community, but for the UK economy as a whole. It signals the country’s continued and long-standing commitment to science and innovation, and it will help the UK to maintain its position as a global leader in these fields.
Based on a press release from the University of Cambridge