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Update on the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe – March 2021 update

As the first calls of Horizon Europe are launched, Áine Ryan, International Research Funding Manager, summarises a recent formal announcement by the European Commission confirming that UK-based researchers are immediately eligible to apply for funding.

The European Commission recently published a Q&A on the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe. It explains the process, scope and main features of the UK’s association, and confirms that UK-based researchers are already eligible to apply for funding, and to coordinate projects. They do not need to wait until association is formalised before applying.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the 9th Framework Programme through which the EU will fund research and innovation. It will run for seven years from 2021-2027, and be funded by the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). The UK is expected to soon become an associated country to Horizon Europe. The UK will therefore have the same rights and obligations as other countries associated to the Programme.

How will the UK be associated to Horizon Europe?

Through the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK (TCA). All aspects of UK association to Horizon Europe were agreed on 24 December 2020 in the TCA and documents attached to the Agreement. Association will enter into force through the formal adoption of a Protocol that is already agreed in principle, after the Horizon Europe Regulation has been adopted. No additional negotiations are foreseen.

Can UK entities take part in the first calls for proposals of Horizon Europe?

Yes. UK entities including universities, research centres, scientists, innovative businesses, industry, etc. will have full rights to participate in the first calls for proposals of Horizon Europe as soon as they are published on the European Commission’s website.

This is also true for calls which may be published before the adoption of the Horizon Europe Regulation, such as early COVID-19 calls or those of the European Research Council (ERC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC), apart from the EIC Fund (see below).

The first calls for proposals are expected to be published before UK association enters into force. The General Annexes attached to the main Horizon Europe work programme (2020-2021), as well as the ERC and EIC work programmes (to which the General Annexes will apply once the latter are adopted), will ensure that UK applicants are treated as if the UK is an associated country throughout the process, from admissibility and eligibility to evaluation, up until the signature of grant agreements. However, grant agreements can only be signed once the association has come into force. The same treatment will also be granted to any applicants from other associated countries currently engaged in the active process of (re)association with the Commission. The Commission expects association of the UK to enter into force before the first grant agreements are signed.

In ‘duly justified exceptional cases’ e.g. actions related to Union strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security, restrictions may apply and these will be clearly specified in the calls for proposals.

What parts of Horizon Europe will the UK be associated to?

The UK is associating to the full Horizon Europe programme with the only exception of the EIC Fund (which is the loan/equity instrument of the EIC, see below). The scope of association includes the European Research Council (ERC), the Marie Curie-Skłodowska Actions, the six ‘Global Challenges’ clusters and Missions, the partnerships, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, etc.

UK entities are not eligible to participate in the EIC Fund part of the EIC Accelerator, since the UK decided not to take part in financial instruments of the EU. This means UK entities can apply for grants under the Accelerator but they will not be eligible for loans or equity. They can also participate on an equal footing with entities from EU Member States and other associated countries in the EIC’s Pathfinder component.

The UK will also be associated to the Euratom Research and Training Programme, as well as fusion-related activities carried out under the European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (F4E), the ITER Agreement, and the Broader Approach Agreement.

The UK will not participate in the European Defence Fund, which has a different legal basis and is not covered by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

What are the rights of UK participants?

Thanks to the Associated Country status, UK participants will have the same rights as EU participants, with the very limited aforementioned exceptions. UK entities are eligible for funding at the same rates and under the same conditions. They can lead project consortia. They also count towards the minimum number of countries in calls for transnational projects.

What does the UK have to pay to participate in Horizon Europe?

The UK’s financial contribution will consist of:

  • an operational contribution covering operational and support expenditure; and
  • a participation fee that covers the administrative costs of organising the system of participation to Union programmes.

Correction mechanisms will apply if significant imbalances appear between the UK’s operational contribution and what it receives from the programme.

Support available from Edinburgh Research Office

You can read more about opportunities for funding from Horizon Europe on our dedicated EU & International Research Funding page (University of Edinburgh access only).

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Áine Ryan


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