News & Media

UK rejoins Horizon Europe

News, Sep 07 2023

The UK Government and European Commission have announced that the UK will join Horizon Europe as a full associate member for the remainder of the programme, a move bringing welcome security and certainty to the UK scientific community afters years of doubt.

The UK will participate in Horizon Europe on equal terms with other associated countries, effective from 1 January 2024 until the programme expires in 2027. The UK will also associate with Copernicus (the EU’s Earth observation programme) but will pursue a separate nuclear fusion programme instead of joining the EU nuclear programme Euratom.

Association with Horizon allows UK scientists to participate in the largest collaborative research funding programme in the world, with a budget of €95.5 billion, providing access to established funding streams and ready-made routes to collaboration within the EU and beyond. Via these benefits, and Horizon’s established infrastructures for training, the announcement also offers the UK a renewed chance to attract the best global scientific talent. UK scientists, businesses and institutions will now be able to apply with confidence for EU grants that they have historically been highly successful in winning, and build on already-established international collaborations.

The scientific community has been in firm agreement that association with Horizon Europe constituted the best outcome for both UK and European science following Brexit, with many key figures and organisations exercising their influence to advocate for association. This included the Society’s partner organisations the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) and the Royal Society of Biology.

Talks about the UK rejoining Horizon were blocked by the European Commission prior to the agreement of the Windsor Framework, the policy replacing the contentious post-Brexit trade deal under which Northern Ireland retained its status as part of the EU single market. Even once this framework was agreed in February 2023 and negotiations could resume, delays in determining the financial arrangements of the association deal meant the government pushed ahead with development of its ‘plan B’, Pioneer, details of which were first released in April 2023. This alternative funding programme pledged £14.6 billion but was criticised for being unable to replace the collaborative opportunities offered by Horizon Europe.

Overall, it is estimated that the UK will contribute nearly €2.6 billion per year for participation to both Horizon Europe and the Copernicus programme. Under the bespoke deal, the UK will not pay for the years it has not been associated (since 2021), and the UK will also be compensated should UK scientists receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the programme. With these financial terms, the deal is being cited by the Prime Minister as ‘the right deal for British taxpayers’.

In response to the announcement, the Chair of our Policy Advisory Panel, Dr Derry Mercer, said:

“The UK’s association to Horizon Europe is a significant landmark for both UK and European science. After years of uncertainty, UK scientists now have the security needed to advance their projects and collaborations. This deal is hugely welcomed by the Biochemical Society and molecular bioscientists, as well as the wider scientific community. This is certainly the best outcome for both the UK and the EU, allowing the UK to continue to build on its research and innovation standing whilst strengthening the Horizon Europe programme overall.”

Our President Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, said:

“I am delighted to hear the excellent news that the UK will associate with Horizon Europe. This provides UK molecular bioscientists with access to international research networks and collaborative opportunities that are so vital for the conduct of world-class research that will change lives and address the many challenges facing the world today.”

Read more about the response of the scientific community: