While rejoining the UK to Horizon Europe was met with overwhelming support from the academic community, some say the years it took – and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s hesitance – has caused serious damage and is ‘hardly something worthy of praise’.
After months of negotiations over London’s annual contributions, the European Commission and the UK government have concluded negotiations and reached an agreement in principle on the association of the UK to Horizon Europe under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, according to a joint press release.
Many experts in the science community reacted positively to the news.
“Today’s deal will facilitate renewed collaborations across Europe, cementing the UK’s position as a leading research destination and attracting top scientific talent from around the world to deliver future ground-breaking discoveries,” said Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.
However, others acknowledged that the delay in reaching this agreement and the political motivations of the UK government behind it had caused serious damage.
“Sunak’s hesitance was an unexpected twist and – although almost certainly political in its motivations – suggested a lack of understanding,” Dr Jonathan Memel, Senior Manager of Grants at Ayming UK, told EURACTIV.
“A lot of damage has already been done. He added that three-quarters of UK businesses had or were planning to move R&D abroad between 2022 and 2023, with 63% of all businesses moving activity to EU countries,” he added.
“Membership of Horizon was put in jeopardy by the conservative’s Brexit plans which made it impossible for British universities to plan, and risked contribution to science, innovation and education – just for their political objectives,” British Scholar and Associate Professor of News and Political Communication at Monash University Emma Briant told EURACTIV.
“Having damaged Higher Ed, to find a way to pay back into that previous status quo we helped create is hardly something worthy of praise,” she added.
“The government must support UK firms to make the most of the programme in the coming years. The danger is that we’ve seen a lot of flip-flopping on Horizon and, with Labour leading in the polls, the risk is that we might find ourselves with a new policy 18 months down the line,” said Memel.
The UK will be required to contribute financially to the EU budget and is subject to all the safeguards of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, according to the joint press release. It is estimated that the UK will contribute almost €2.6 billion per year on average for its participation in both Horizon Europe and the Copernicus component of the Space programme.
The Council must now approve this political agreement before being formally adopted in the EU-UK Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes.
(Sofia Stuart Leeson | EURACTIV.com)
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