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UK government’s Plan B for non-association to Horizon Europe

On 20 July, the UK government published a new report called "Supporting UK R&D and collaborative research beyond European programmes". This document explains how the UK will transition to a new R&D programme, if unable to associate to Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom, in order to offer more certainty to the national research and business community.

The report highlights the government’s original intention to be part of the flagship Horizon, Copernicus, Euratom Research & Training and Fusion for Energy research programmes, despite the country’s departure from the EU, and reiterates its commitment to associate with all four of them. It sets out a series of transitional measures to be put in place, in case the association does not happen in due time, including:

  • The Horizon Europe Guarantee, which will allow funding successful Horizon Europe applications, including those where grant signature dates fall beyond the end of 2022;
  • Funding for successful, in-flight applications for UK entities with eligible in-flight applications to Horizon Europe (to calls that have closed or are open at the point of non-association, where such applications are not being evaluated by the EC), by assessing such applications domestically;
  • Uplifts to existing talent programmes, covering a broad range of disciplines via National Academies and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), followed by the creation of a new UK fellowship and award programme, designed to retain and attract top talent in the UK.
  • Uplifts to innovation support targeted at small and medium sized businesses, delivered by Innovate UK;
  • The Talent and Research Stabilisation Fund, using formula funding to support a range of eligible UK institutions who have been most affected by the loss of Horizon Europe talent funding. The fund will enable eligible research organisations and universities to support talent retention and target funding vulnerabilities at a local level; and
  • Third Country Participation funding all eligible UK entities participating in any consortia signing grant agreements before 31 March 2025.

The higher education sector represented by Universities UK welcomed the government’s initiative in clarifying how it would invest in the UK university R&D if association proves impossible. Universities also broadly welcomed the non-association funding scenarios but also insisted on their role in the related policy development processes and the importance of transparency. They also demanded more clarity on the budget and timeline for implementing the plan.