The UK has officially joined the Horizon Europe and Copernicus programs through a tailored agreement with the European Union (EU). This development grants UK scientists access to the world’s most extensive research collaboration initiative. Horizon Europe, with improved financial terms and certainty regarding the UK’s participation until 2027.
Starting from September 7, 2023, researchers from the UK can apply for grants and engage in projects under the Horizon program. They can do so with the assurance that the UK will remain a fully associated member for the entire duration of the program, which extends until 2027.
Upon adoption, the UK will also have the opportunity to participate in the governance of EU programs. A privilege it had been excluded from over the previous three years. This inclusion will allow the UK to shape collaborative efforts in the coming year. With UK researchers leading consortia in future Horizon Europe projects.
UK’s Role in EU Program Governance
The Horizon program offers UK companies and research institutions unparalleled opportunities. To lead global initiatives in the development of new technologies and research projects across various fields. Including health and artificial intelligence. This collaboration will not only facilitate cooperation with the EU but also with countries like Norway, New Zealand, and Israel, which are part of the program. Additionally, countries such as Korea and Canada, which are seeking to join, will also benefit from this expanded partnership.
This development follows a conversation between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen on September 6. Both leaders encourage UK scientists to apply confidently, emphasizing the collaborative efforts that the UK and EU will undertake to enhance participation.
In the course of negotiations over the past six months, the Prime Minister secured improved financial terms for the UK’s association with Horizon Europe, optimizing benefits for UK scientists, taxpayers, and researchers’ participation rates while mitigating the impact of EU-associated delays.
UK’s Approach to Fusion Energy
Furthermore, the UK has also chosen to associate itself with Copernicus, the European Earth Observation program. This affiliation will grant the UK’s earth observation sector access to valuable data crucial for early warnings related to natural disasters such as floods and fires. It will also enable participation in contract bids, which were inaccessible for the past three years.
In alignment with the preferences of the UK fusion sector, the country has opted for a domestic fusion energy strategy instead of associating with the EU’s Euratom program. This strategy will involve extensive international collaboration, including partnerships with European counterparts, and will introduce a pioneering alternative program supported by up to £650 million until 2027. This approach ensures that UK taxpayer funds are strategically utilized to serve the nation’s interests.
Collectively, this agreement is poised to create and support numerous jobs, fostering the next generation of research talent. It aligns with the Prime Minister’s ambition to bolster the economy and establish the UK as a science and technology powerhouse by 2030.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated:
“Innovation has long been the foundation for prosperity in the UK, from the breakthroughs improving healthcare to the technological advances growing our economy. With a wealth of expertise and experience to bring to the global stage, we have delivered a deal that enables UK scientists to confidently take part in the world’s largest research collaboration programme – Horizon Europe. We have worked with our EU partners to make sure that this is the right deal for the UK, unlocking unparalleled research opportunities, and also the right deal for British taxpayers.”