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Applicants for Horizon Europe thrown a safety net by government

Successful UK-based Horizon Europe applicants who haven’t yet been able to sign grant agreements with the EU are now guaranteed funding come what may.

Marc Greatrex

Director - Grants Division


7 minute read

Reassurance, for now at least

Under a new scheme announced on the 29th November 2021, applicants who are successfully awarded Horizon Europe grants will be guaranteed funding regardless of whether the UK and Horizon Europe continue to associate.

Horizon Europe is one of the world’s largest collaborative Research and Innovation (R&I) programmes. Set to run from 2021 to 2027, €95.5 billion of funding is available for companies looking to collaborate and innovate on a disruptive scale. It’s open to researchers and innovators from every background and discipline, from individuals to large scale businesses.

Originally it was assumed that once the UK left the EU, it would no longer be able to access EU grant funding. However, a key government aim has been to keep that door open.

As part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK, it has now been declared that the UK will associate to the Horizon Europe Programme. However, what this looks like is yet to be finalised. This has brought ongoing delays and uncertainty for UK-based businesses, researchers and innovators.

The new guarantee

In order to give some clarity and reassurance to successful applicants who haven’t yet been able to sign grant agreements with the EU, the government said it will guarantee funding come what may.

This funding is set to be administered through UK Research and Innovation. In the coming weeks, UKRI will publish additional information about scope, eligibility and how to apply.

Science, Research and Innovation Minister George Freeman said:

“The Horizon programme has been a vital source of fellowships and collaborations for UK researchers over the years, which is why the UK and the EU agreed terms for the UK’s participation in the programme under the TCA. The persistent delays from the EU in formalising our association is creating uncertainty in the sector and risks preventing valuable international collaboration on shared global challenges, like climate change.

We are committed to supporting the UK’s world-class research sector in international collaborations, and this safety net will give researchers and their partners the certainty they need to continue to pursue their project plans and maintain world-class science.”

UKRI International Champion Professor Christopher Smith added:

“We welcome the government’s decision to provide funding to those who have successfully applied to Horizon Europe and will be finalising the processes needed to distribute the funds in the coming weeks.

We are also working with the government to prepare for all possible outcomes to ensure the UK’s thriving research and innovation sector has the support it needs to continue collaborating and delivering world-class R&D.

In the meantime we encourage researchers and innovators across the UK to continue to apply to open Horizon Europe calls.”

A potted history

Back in December 2020, the EU and UK signed the Joint Declaration on Participation in Union Programmes and Access to Programme Services. In it, both sides set out how the UK should associate with the agreed EU programmes. It was hoped that the UK could partner up and benefit from EU grant funding schemes like Horizon Europe, Euratom R&T and Copernicus as soon as possible. However, that hasn’t quite happened with many blaming the EU for dragging its feet.

With this in mind, the latest news has broadly been welcomed although only as a short-term fix. It’s really just intended to cover the first wave of calls until UK association can be agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The government is, however, keen to formalise arrangements for the longer term.

And if the delays continue?

In 2020 the government considered the practicalities of handling such a situation devised plans for alternatives. These plans included continued support for domestic and international research and innovation collaboration.

At the Spending Review 2021, the government also announced that if the UK is not in fact able to associate to Horizon Europe, allocated funding will go to UK government R&D programmes instead, although international partnerships will still be supported.

Horizon Europe work programme

Horizon Europe followed on from Horizon 2020 which came to an end last year. The EU Commission then published its main Horizon Europe work programme for 2021-2022, outlining the objectives of the fund and specifying which topic areas grants will be targeted towards.

Throughout its lifespan, Horizon Europe is expected to retain the same focus on outstanding research and innovation as Horizon 2020 did before it. Funding calls will therefore continue to be based on three main areas:

  • European industrial competitiveness and global challenges
  • Excellent science
  • Building an innovative Europe

Further details can be found here.

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Don’t forget to also have a look at our R&D grants page.

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