European Commission clarification on UK Applicants to Horizon 2020

My attention was drawn to a new statement that appeared on the participant portal a few days ago. It states:

For British applicants: Please note that until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, when it comes to rights and obligations; this includes the eligibility of UK legal entities to fully participate and receive funding in Horizon 2020 actions. Please be aware however that the eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to be eligible to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project on the basis of Article 50 of the grant agreement.”

This on the face of it may seem alarming, and it is, but it’s not news to anyone working in EU funding in the UK. This is simply a clarification of what we already know.

Unless the UK negotiates “Associated State” status, or perhaps some other form of association, we will not be able to receive funding from the European Commission for H2020 or FP9 activities. We will be a “Third Country”. This does not mean we can’t participate at all, just not funded by the EC. Which is why some months ago now the UK Government announced a funding guarantee:

UK businesses and universities should continue to bid for competitive EU funds while we remain a member of the EU and we will work with the Commission to ensure payment when funds are awarded. The Government will underwrite the payment of such awards, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-philip-hammond-guarantees-eu-funding-beyond-date-uk-leaves-the-eu)

This was further confirmed by Minister Jo Johnson (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/instruct-european-research-infrastructure-consortia-eric-inaugural-event).

“As a reminder, under this guarantee, the government has committed to underwrite the funding for all successful bids made by UK participants for Horizon 2020 projects that are submitted before EU exit. We know that research projects can run for some time. That’s why the underwrite covers projects that are ongoing at the point of EU exit, as well as funding that will be applied for before the UK’s departure from the EU and that is subsequently successful post-brexit. This is an important point that I hope is passed through the research community.”

So while it is never nice to be reminded of the impact on Brexit on R&I this is not something to worry about… well, not to worry too much about. Also, though suggestive statements the UK Government have signaled that they, through the hard work of lobbying from Universities, Research organisations, research stakeholders, and businesses and SMEs, recognise the importance of continued collaboration with the the remaining EU members on Research and Innovation.  More importantly they have demonstrated a willingness to find some sort of deal to allow us to continue to do what we do so well… some hope there at least.

So, for the time at least the message is still to continue applying.

Alan Kennedy is the European Funding Advisor in the European Funding Team within the Research Support Office. 

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