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Will The UK Still Be Part Of Horizon Europe Once We Leave The EU?

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The biggest ever European funding programme for research and innovation - Horizon 2020 - began life in 2014 with a budget of €79 billion and is due to run until next year. From 2021, it will be succeeded by a new programme called Horizon Europe.

What is Horizon Europe exactly?

Horizon Europe is a European Union research initiative that will last for seven years and will replace the current Horizon 2020 programme. The European Commission has already given the nod to plans for the Horizon Europe programme to raise EU spending in science projects by 50% across the years 2021-2027. Currently, the Commission has proposed to fund Horizon Europe to the tune of €94.1 billion, up from the €77 billion it invested into Horizon 2020, however it could be less than this by the time 2021 comes around.

In essence, the key differences between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe include things like greater foreign access, the chance to grow bigger, more competitive companies and having fewer but simpler partnerships.

So what has Horizon 2020 been about?

The Horizon 2020 programme was originally unveiled by the European Union (EU) as a collaborative way of financing development to help shore up Europe’s global competitiveness around innovation and research.

The programme, that started in 2014 and will close in 2020, has widely been accepted as an effective way of putting Europe at the heart of world-class advances in science and technology, thus creating new jobs and boosting economic growth. Offering a simple, open structure for companies to access funding, it aims to get new R&D projects up and running as quickly as possible so results can be achieved faster. 

At present, funding is centred on three areas - Industrial Leadership, Excellent Science and Societal Challenges. Here we will look at each of them:

Industrial Leadership

This area promotes potential growth in European companies by:

  • Supporting innovation across small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Encouraging private investment in R&D
  • Providing access to risk finance

Excellent Science

This is all about increasing the level of excellence in Europe’s science base by:

  • Encouraging European talent
  • Getting researchers access to a research infrastructure
  • Supporting the best ideas

Societal Challenges

This area looks at tackling the most pressing challenges that modern society faces. It demonstrates the European Commission’s policy priorities and covers every stage of research and innovation, from initial concept to launching it on to the market.

What’s happening after 2020?

With the launch of Horizon Europe, the Commission has proposed an increase in the EU’s overall budget to €1.38 trillion from €1.09 trillion, even though the UK is leaving. This is the equivalent of 1.11% of all the EU countries’ gross national income combined, an increase from 1.03% in the current MFF. As a result, net contributing countries like Germany and France need convincing that pumping more money into the EU will be good value for them.

But the Commission’s MFF proposal also slashes cohesion funds for less wealthy EU member states as well as the common agricultural policy (CAP), which offers some hefty subsidies in farming. Reducing the CAP does not sit well with farmers across the EU, whilst eastern member states that are currently benefitting from cohesion funds are less than happy too.

A large amount of the money clawed back from the CAP and cohesion funds is planned to go into research, as well as the space programme and defence projects. But the biggest share of research grants go to wealthier member states to the west and the north, as they can invest in attracting the best researchers and better research infrastructure, therefore submitting better grant applications.

Will the UK be able to benefit from the Horizon Europe programme after leaving the EU?

The obvious question amongst the UK’s scientific community at the moment is can we still participate post-Brexit?

Both Theresa May (when she was still UK Prime Minister) and the EU Science and Research Commissioner have said that they still believe in the importance of the UK contributing to, and benefitting from, this very lucrative EU R&D programme. It’s not just about the financial investment either, as the benefits are also enormous for companies in receipt of the EU Business Innovation Grant.

So the UK can still be involved…

Yes, the consensus is that the European Commission and the UK government are working to devise a way for Britain to still be included in Horizon Europe. However, we won’t be on the same terms as before and will have a different, less beneficial status. Caveats to the new Horizon Europe programme will include allocating funding depending on how much a country has paid in. With the current programme, the UK has enjoyed the second largest amount of funding of all the EU member states involved, receiving 15% of available funds in total. It is highly unlikely that as ‘associates’ the UK will have the same opportunity again, without a large increase in our membership fee to pay.

There is also the programme’s drive to promote growth through innovation in the EU to consider. The rules could allow EU countries to exclude anyone outside Europe from projects on this basis, meaning the UK’s level of participation may be limited, depending on what exactly the project is.

To sum up, Brexit is still a topic of ongoing debate and nothing is set in stone. Unfortunately, this means both the UK and the EU must plan for every eventuality, although there is a strong appetite to continue working together. The practicalities of how this will work, and the impact it will have on our R&D growth potential, is simply a case of wait and see.

Got a question or need further advice?

Here at Myriad Associates we have many years’ experience in handling R&D Grant Funding, including the Horizon 2020 Main Scheme & the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument - and there’s very little we haven’t seen before. Whether you’re a brand new start-up or an established company, we can hep you clai the european funding you are looking for.

To speak with one of our European funding experts, call us on 0207 118 6045 or use our contact page and we’ll be pleased to help in any way we can.


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