The British government still has a month to reach an agreement with the European Union on whether to participate in the €95 billion Horizon Europe research program or extend the national compensation scheme.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has paid more than £1 billion in government grants to UK researchers participating in Horizon Europe projects under the government guarantee scheme, which expires at the end of September.
The UK was to join the scheme as part of a Brexit deal with the EU. However, its associate membership status has been blocked for two years due to a dispute between Brussels and London over the Northern Ireland protocol.
Officials have been at odds over how much the Treasury will contribute to Horizon’s budget since the end of the Windsor Framework Agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the European Commission said could speed up UK access to Horizon.
Talks broke down in July, despite UK and EU officials suggesting a deal was close.
Sunak is suspected to be committed to the so-called pilot project. The British government has brought it up for discussion as an alternative national plan to Horizon if negotiations with the EU fail.
Pioneer will be awarded £14.6 billion, the same amount the government would have paid to link Horizon from 2021 to 2027. This emerges from a government proposal released in April. However, it may take several months for the pioneer to develop.
Last week, a survey of 84 experts by Cancer Research UK found overwhelming support for the UK to join the Horizon Europe research and development fund. 75 per cent of those polled supported sticking with the fund, while only 11 per cent supported the UK government’s flagship scheme.
Cancer Aid warned that UK membership of Horizon Europe was in the interests of cancer researchers and people affected by cancer.
“We urgently need Horizon Europe,” said Professor Julian Downward, head of the Oncogene Biology Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute. “The current situation affects British science every day” as more researchers travel to EU countries to take advantage of European Research Council grants.
“If we don’t build the country to attract international talent, the UK is at risk of losing a lot of scientific talent. Being able to apply for Horizon Europe grants is an important step in that direction,” he added.
[Bearbeitet von Zoran Radosavljevic]
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