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A no deal Brexit: What does it mean for Horizon 2020?

Alan Kennedy clarifies the implications of a “no deal” Brexit on Horizon 2020 research funding. He concludes that current developments will not have an impact on our ability to apply for H2020 calls.

Discussion of a “no deal” Brexit has intensified in recent days. Whether this is just political posturing or a burgeoning reality remains to be seen. Regardless, the possibility of no deal looming may have a chilling effect on anyone considering applying for Horizon 2020 funding, or indeed discourage EU partners from including us in potential proposals.

While these concerns are understandable, they should not dissuade you or others from pursuing H2020 funding. Yesterday the UK Treasury released a statement clarifying that the underwrite announced back in August 2016, that will apply to all successful UK proposals submitted before the UK exits the EU, will still apply even in the event of a no deal scenario.

“The guarantee announced today (24 July 2018) will reflect this by underwriting the UK’s full allocation for structural and investment fund projects, such as funding secured through the European Regional Development Fund, until the end of 2020.

In addition, the Treasury will also guarantee funding for UK organisations which successfully bid directly to the European Commission – through projects like Horizon 2020 – until the end of this EU budget period if no deal is agreed.

This will give potential applicants continued confidence to bid for funding whatever the outcome of the negotiations, and ensure that UK organisations continue to benefit from funding post-Exit.”

HM Treasury – Funding from EU programmes guaranteed until the end of 2020 24 July 2018

It is also important to note that the UK leaving the EU, even without a deal, does not mean automatic termination of UK participation in EU projects, as is sometime believed. Article 50, the ironically named article dealing with this in Horizon 2020 grant agreements, does not stipulate this as grounds for termination.

In addition to the funding issue, another common concern is that applications from, or including, UK participants may be viewed less favourably and so opt to remove or demote UK participants. In a recent speech, Carlos Moedas, the EU’s Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, made very clear this was not necessary or beneficial.

“I have heard concerns about British organisations being dropped from EU projects. There are concerns about staff from other EU member states still being able to work in British research institutions.

I wish I could give you all the answers, but for now I can make two clear statements.

First, for as long as the UK is a member of the European Union, EU law continues to apply and the UK retains all rights and obligations of a Member State. This of course includes the full eligibility for funding under Horizon 2020.

Second, Horizon 2020 projects will continue to be evaluated based on merit and not on nationality. So I urge the European scientific community to continue to choose their project partners on the basis of excellence.”

Carlos Moedas – Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation 25 July 2018

Finally, the latest figures for UK participation in horizon 2020 (May 2018) released yesterday show that the University of Edinburgh retains its position as the 5th most successful university in the UK (and 7th overall) with 243 participations and €169m in funding (up from 209 and €144m in March). Overall, we’ve seen only a very slight drop in the UK’s share of funding at 14.44%, down from 14.68% in March 2018.

So, while things may not be looking good on the Brexit front generally, current developments will not have an impact on our ability to apply for H2020 calls.

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Alan Kennedy


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