The UK’s industrial strategy and engagement in EU research and innovation programmes

In today’s blog, Alan Kennedy, pulls out some key points from the Prime Minister’s speech on the UK’s industrial strategy and our future involvement in EU research and innovation programmes.

Last week, the Prime Minister gave a speech at Jodrell Bank entitled “Science and Modern Industrial Strategy”. In it she recognised the UK’s global leadership in science and innovation (that’s you and I) as one of the country’s greatest assets. She mentioned the  £7 billion of new public funding for science, research and innovation and the goal of research and development investment reaching 2.4 per cent of GDP (up from 1.75) by 2027, levels similar to Belgium and France.

For those of us who are not UK citizens, that’s about half the university’s research staff, she recognised that around the same percentage of the UK’s resident researcher population were born overseas, and stated, “When we leave the European Union, I will ensure that does not change”.

Perhaps the most important part of the speech for those of us involved in European Funding was the Prime Minister’s comments regarding association to Horizon Europe, the successor to Horizon 2020:

I know how deeply British scientists value their collaboration with colleagues in other countries through EU-organised programmes.

And the contribution which UK science makes to those programmes is immense.

I have already said that I want the UK to have a deep science partnership with the European Union, because this is in the interests of scientists and industry right across Europe.

And today I want to spell out that commitment even more clearly.

The United Kingdom would like the option to fully associate ourselves with the excellence-based European science and innovation programmes – including the successor to Horizon 2020 and Euratom R&T.

It is in the mutual interest of the UK and the EU that we should do so.

Of course such an association would involve an appropriate UK financial contribution, which we would willingly make.

In return, we would look to maintain a suitable level of influence in line with that contribution and the benefits we bring.

The UK is ready to discuss these details with the Commission as soon as possible.

Association would mean that researchers from the UK could participate in the future programme on the same basis as we do now. Some currently associated countries take significant advantage of the opportunities presented in Horizon 2020. Switzerland and Israel, for example, currently have the 7th and 8th highest number of ERC projects.

While there is no hard and fast rule on how association operates, in most cases the associated countries pay into the EU’s R&I budget based on a percentage of the GDP. On a euro-for-euro basis they don’t generally get out more than they pay in (which is the case for the UK at the moment) the value of the research output generated and the collaborations which arise outweighs this discrepancy. I have heard some suggestions that the UK may pursue a pay-for-play model where we only pay for what we participate in, but I don’t imagine that would be received very well in Brussels.

While we still don’t know what will happen next, most developments to date have been positive ones. However, a lot remains to be done and while we still have a position of influence in Brussels we are taking advantage of that to shape the successor programme to Horizon 2020. We are likely to see a lot more about Horizon Europe after June 7th when the European Commission publishes their official proposal for the programme.

You can read the full text of the speech here.

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

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