After a two-year post-Brexit standoff regarding science funding, the United Kingdom has decided to rejoin the European Union’s Horizon science research programme. This move is seen as a significant development in bilateral relations between the UK and the EU, following the resolution of a trade dispute seven months prior.
Rejoining Horizon and Improved Financial Terms:
The UK’s decision to rejoin the Horizon science research programme marks a positive step forward in its relationship with the EU. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office announced that they have successfully negotiated “improved financial terms of association” with the Horizon project, which is a flagship EU initiative for funding scientific research.
Association with Copernicus and Exclusion of Euratom:
In addition to rejoining Horizon, the UK has also chosen to associate with the European earth observation programme, Copernicus. However, the UK will not participate in the EU’s Euratom nuclear research scheme. Instead, the UK has decided to pursue a domestic fusion energy strategy.
Brexit Trade Agreement and Access to EU Science Programs:
This decision is in line with the Brexit trade agreement signed at the end of 2020, which allowed the UK access to various EU science and innovation programs, including Horizon. However, initially, the EU had blocked Britain’s participation due to a dispute over post-Brexit trade rules related to Northern Ireland. The resolution of this dispute in February paved the way for the UK to rejoin Horizon Europe.
Funding and Compensation Mechanism:
One of the key points of negotiation was how much the UK needed to pay to rejoin Horizon, considering it had missed two years of the seven-year program. Under the agreement, the UK will not be required to pay for the period it was frozen out. Moreover, a “clawback” mechanism has been established to compensate the UK if British scientists receive significantly less funding than the UK government contributes.
Benefits for Collaborations and Scientific Research:
Leading universities in the UK, such as Oxford and Imperial College London, have expressed their support for this agreement. They believe it will facilitate collaborations on critical global challenges. Scientists are optimistic that working with their European counterparts will flourish once again after the enforced hiatus, potentially leading to groundbreaking research and innovation.