Research community joy as UK set to rejoin Horizon Europe

The UK’s ability to participate in cutting edge research has received a significant boost with the announcement that Britain is set to rejoin the European Commission’s Horizon Europe program.


Today’s announcement (September 7, 2023) follows six months of negotiations to broker a new deal that is said to improve financial terms for the UK’s participation. Since 2020 the UK had been frozen out of Horizon Europe for reneging on its commitments to the Northern Ireland Protocol, a situation resolved in February 2023 with the Windsor Framework.

From today UK researchers can apply for grants and bid to take part in projects under the Horizon Europe programme, which runs to 2027 with a budget of €95.5bn.

Once adopted, the UK will also be able to join the governance of EU programmes with UK companies and researchers able to lead consortia in the next work programme of Horizon Europe projects.

Commenting on the announcement, Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering said: “The whole engineering community – including business, industry and academia – will celebrate the announcement of continued partnership between the UK and EU.

“Engineering plays a vital role in addressing our critical global challenges, and this welcome development will enable essential international collaboration for the common good.”


“As the Institute of Physics has long highlighted, Horizon association brings unparalleled opportunities backed by funding for collaboration - it is best for science, best for business and innovation, and best for the UK,” added Tom Grinyer, CEO of the Institute of Physics. “Now we need to see the details and get on with the hard work of making up for lost time in joint projects, collaboration and innovating with our European partners."

As part of the agreement, the UK will associate to Copernicus - the European Earth Observation programme – giving Britain’s Earth observation sector access to unique data and the ability to bid for contracts for the first time in three years.

The UK will not, however, associate with the EU’s Euratom programme, opting instead to pursue a £650m domestic fusion energy strategy in collaboration with international and European partners to 2027.

According to the European Commission, the UK will contribute around €2.6bn per year on average for its participation to Horizon Europe and Copernicus. The EC added that today's political agreement must now be approved by the European Council before being formally adopted in the EU-UK Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes.

New deal

New financial protections for the British taxpayer, especially in the first years of association when UK scientists’ participation will be recovering, ensures: UK taxpayers will not pay for the time where UK researchers have been excluded from since 2021, with costs starting from January 2024 – delivering much better terms for 2023. This will also provide breathing space to boost the participation of UK researchers in open calls for grants before we start paying into the programme. The UK will have a new automatic clawback that protects the UK as participation recovers from the effects of the last two and a half years. It means the UK will be compensated should UK scientists receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the programme. This wasn’t the case under the original terms of association. Source: Department for Science, Innovation and Technology