Brexit: Treasury pledges to underwrite Horizon 2020 projects

The Treasury has pledged to underwrite Horizon 2020 projects beyond the UK’s EU membership, a decision expected to provide assurances over the funding status of UK-based researchers.

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The announcement, made by chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond on 13 August 2016, was described by Prof Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, as sending the message that Britain remains open and collaborative.

The Treasury said that whilst Britain remains part of the EU, organisations bidding directly to the European Commission for EU funded projects will have their funding underwritten, even when projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.

These include universities participating in Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme that is making nearly €80bn of funding available over seven-years to 2020.

Hammond said: “We recognise that many organisations across the UK which are in receipt of EU funding, or expect to start receiving funding, want reassurance about the flow of funding they will receive.

“That is why I am confirming that structural and investment funds projects signed before the Autumn Statement and Horizon research funding granted before we leave the EU will be guaranteed by the Treasury after we leave.”

Greg Clark, business and energy secretary said: “By underwriting the significant Horizon 2020 grants we are showing the extent of our commitment, standing squarely behind our researchers and scientists as they continue working with their European partners to develop new technologies, discover life-saving medicines and pioneer every day innovations.”

Structural and investment funds subject to these assurances include the European Regional Development Fund including European Territorial Cooperation.

Projects that have received, or are due to receive, funding from the European Regional Development Fund include the Manufacturing Growth Programme in the Midlands where £9m of ERDF funding will span 16 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across the East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber and East of England. The project will provide tailored assistance to manufacturers supporting a large employment base.

In Yorkshire, the Royce Translational Centre at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham will be delivered with £4m of ERDF funding. This is expected to support growth and innovation in companies employing over 13,800 people and is estimated to generate £668m in the Sheffield City Region.

Dr Mike Galsworthy, programme director at Scientists for EU, said: “The announcement by HM Treasury…that the UK government will underwrite Horizon 2020 projects beyond the UK’s EU membership is a confirmation of the bare essentials, but nothing more.

“The reason why the chancellor’s announcement is decidedly underwhelming is that they represent no boost to science, but rather the most minimal assurances possible. While we are in the EU, the UK of course needs to contribute its agreed share to science. As we leave the EU, the UK of course needs to honour science contracts signed whilst the country was inside the team.

“This is not a pledge of extra funds beyond that to which we’re already committed. Anything less than honouring contracts would disrupt countless projects and pull UK scientists from their international teams. The government portrayal is too much fanfare over affirming a necessary administrative commitment.”

Dr Sarah Main, CaSE director added: “The assurance that the Treasury will underwrite successful EU research bids up until the UK exits the EU, and for the lifetime of the award after we leave the EU, is a considerable commitment that potentially stretches 7-10 years into the future. This surely shows the commitment of the government to science.

“What we need now is to secure the longer term conditions that will enable science to thrive – a suite of policies that sustain flow of global talent, an ‘in house’ regulatory framework for the UK that enables us to work with the whole world, and an investment programme that sees the UK step up to the ambition for research and innovation set by Europe and the United States.”