UK sets out new measures to support R&I despite delays

But association with the European Commission’s key research funding program remains “by far the best result”, they say.

The measures include multiple enhancements: these will be directed to existing talent schemes in the UK, innovation funding and businesses – in particular SMEs – and international innovation schemes to support business collaborations .

They also include the UK Guarantee scheme still in operation, funding for research institutes most affected by the loss of Horizon Europe talent funding and the continued participation of third countries in the scheme.

“While association with Horizon Europe is still by far the best outcome to protect the UK’s position as a scientific superpower, the continued delay in confirming UK association is highly detrimental to academic research and to innovation,” said Universities UK President Steve West.

“[The measures] ensuring welcome transparency around the government’s contingency plans, particularly for short-term stability and safeguarding future collaboration with EU partners,” he said.

The Russell Group, the UK body representing top research universities, wrote a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, saying science and research could be the “biggest losers” from delays in discussing the Northern Ireland protocol – and are “too important to be used in within the framework of a negotiation.

“Without the full association of the United Kingdom [in Horizon Europe]the program will become less competitive, with implications for the excellence and prestige of EU grants.

“There are serious political issues at stake which need to be resolved in a mutually beneficial way, however, you have the opportunity to ensure that negotiations continue while the UK participates in Horizon Europe,” said Tim Bradshaw, CEO of the Russell Group.

Measures announced July 20 has set out, according to the UK government, a “preliminary vision” for a long-term alternative to Horizon – should that prove necessary.

“We would like clarification on what an alternative system might look like if the UK is unable to partner with Horizon Europe”

“It will focus on our four core themes to complement our existing R&D investments: Talent, End-to-End Innovation, Global Collaboration, and R&D System Investments,” the announcement reads.

There is no date set at this time for the establishment of this new long-term program, but the government is said to be “already in conversation” with researchers and companies to make the final preparations.

The “transitional” measures set out by the government for now will ensure that there is no interruption in funding for the R&D sector as a whole and will allow researchers and companies to continue to engage in funding opportunities.

“We would like some clarification on what an alternative system might look like if the UK is unable to partner with Horizon Europe. The paper only suggests, rather than proposes, a new alternative vision for R&D activity,” said National Center for Universities and Business CEO Joe Marshall.

“There remain risks to the long-term stability of support which could lead to the decline of a key national asset, the UK research system,” he added.

UUK also agreed with the NCUB’s urgent need.

“We now need more precise information on the budget and the timetable for the implementation of these plans. The universities want to work closely with the government to develop long-term alternatives to Horizon Europe if the association fails. Time is running out and so we ask politicians to continue to push for the association as a matter of urgency,” West said.

Despite the new measures and the idea that a long-term program could be created, the Russell Group also stressed that the main issue was to resolve the current political problems blocking the UK’s full association with Horizon Europe – such as the Deadlock over Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Scientists cannot control the outcome of protocol debates. Yet science and the solutions it can provide to challenges such as net zero and public health will be the ones to suffer,” Bradshaw said.

“The government has made it clear that full association remains its top priority, but the release of these plans means that the move away from Horizon has become one step closer, and the time left to resolve this issue is over. shorter,” he added.

Mary I. Bruner