Horizon Europe: Where are we now?
Although the scientific community in the UK and EU are strongly behind it, the UK’s association to the Horizon Europe science and innovation programme looks increasingly unlikely. The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Head of Policy and Evidence, Tanya Sheridan, discusses where we are now, what the RSC is doing and looks ahead to the next few months.
Where are we now?
The EU and UK agreed in principle that the UK would participate in the next EU Framework Programme, Horizon Europe, as well as the Euratom and Copernicus programmes 18 months ago, yet there is limited progress as a result of political disagreements between the UK and EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol. The UK Government wants to conclude association as a separate discussion to the Protocol, but to date, EU negotiators wish to resolve the issues as a package.
In the October 2021 Spending Review, the Chancellor made a commitment that the £6.9bn set aside for UK participation in EU science programmes would be invested in UK R&D if the UK were not to become an associated country. In November 2021, the UK Science Minister, George Freeman MP, published an open letter to the R&D sector setting out a Horizon Europe Guarantee Fund and his top-level ideas for the scenario that the UK cannot associate, known as ‘Plan B’.
In recent days, more detail on Plan B has emerged. Minister Freeman said it will comprise three pillars: world-class fellowships; a stronger industry and innovation focus; and global challenges.
What is the RSC doing?
Whether the UK can associate to Horizon Europe is undoubtedly a matter of significant concern for many RSC members and across the chemical sciences community, particularly in the UK. As a result, it has been an ongoing theme in Royal Society of Chemistry policy work in recent years. We have collaborated with others and taken all opportunities to reinforce the importance of UK association to Horizon Europe to the UK Government and to leaders in the EU.
Science is an international endeavour and collaborative in nature. It can offer the widest benefits to society when researchers from different backgrounds – be that country, sector or discipline – come together to share knowledge and expertise. It remains our position that associating to Horizon Europe is the best option for the chemical sciences and we continue to make the case for association as the best option.
Some of our recent activities here include:
- Advocacy work – we continue to explain the importance of UK association to Horizon Europe in a number of policy documents, meetings and consultation responses. Some recent examples include our Spending Review representation and our response to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry on Delivering a UK Science and Technology Strategy.
Supporting the Stick to Science campaign – the campaign is calling for the UK and Switzerland to be swiftly associated to Horizon Europe and has so far gained the support of nearly 6,000 signatories from across the European and global scientific community.
- Alternatives – while we consistently make the point that association to Horizon Europe would be best for the UK, we also represent the needs of the chemical sciences in any alternative approaches. The RSC’s principles for alternatives were developed using survey data from members and can be found in this briefing.
Further links to our Horizon Europe policy and influencing work can be found on our International funding, collaboration & chemicals regulation pages.
While we will continue to advocate for association to Horizon Europe, if it cannot happen, we will ensure that UK Government is aware of the needs of UK chemical sciences and continue to make sure our community’s voices are heard.
As more details on the UK’s Horizon Europe alternative emerge, we will be scrutinising the offer and working with our communities and other science organisations to ensure that the alternatives are fit for purpose for a healthy, thriving research and innovation ecosystem which enable mobility of the chemistry workforce and students, while helping chemistry-using sectors and companies to grow and flourish.
Are you interested in informing our messaging?
Over the coming months, we will be engaging with our community to help inform our messaging on Plan B. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact our policy and evidence team through the form on the left of this page.