Rishi Sunak hails ‘bespoke deal’ as UK rejoins EU Horizon project

The UK will rejoin the European Union’s £85 billion Horizon science research programme, it has been confirmed this morning.

From today, British researchers are able to apply for grants and bid to take part in projects under the Horizon scheme.

The UK had been locked out of the Horizon programme after Brexit.

Horizon is a collaboration involving Europe’s leading research institutes and technology companies which sees EU member states contribute funds that are then allocated to individuals or organisations on merit.

The prime minister discussed the UK’s involvement with EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen yesterday after six months of negotiations.

The move has been welcomed by scientists, amid warnings that UK researchers have been missing out on collaboration with colleagues in the EU.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “Innovation has long been the foundation for prosperity in the UK, from the breakthroughs improving healthcare to the technological advances growing our economy.

“With a wealth of expertise and experience to bring to the global stage, we have delivered a deal that enables UK scientists to confidently take part in the world’s largest research collaboration programme — Horizon Europe.

“We have worked with our EU partners to make sure that this is the right deal for the UK, unlocking unparalleled research opportunities, and also the right deal for British taxpayers”.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, science, innovation and technology secretary Michelle Donelan hailed this as “fantastic news” for the British taxpayer.

She said: “What we’re announcing today is a great deal – a deal that many said we wouldn’t be able to get.

“We didn’t just accept the deal on the table, we created a bespoke deal working with the EU. One that will enable our scientific community and businesses to have access to the world’s largest research collaboration programme, but also it gives us value for money for the taxpayer.

“For instance, we’re not paying for the years that we didn’t associate, there’s also a claw back mechanism so if there was a situation where we weren’t getting as much out of it as we were putting into it that could automatically kick in.

“The really good thing as well as we’ve managed to achieve in there that we have an over performance indicator. So it means if we over perform, we’re not penalised.”

Under the “bespoke scheme”, UK taxpayers will not pay for the time UK researchers have been excluded since 2021, with costs starting from January 2024.

According to No 10, UK researchers can apply for grants and bid to take part in projects with “certainty” that the UK will be participating as a fully associated member for the remaining life of the programme to 2027.

Both Rishi Sunak and EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen are encouraging UK scientists to apply with confidence from today and they agreed that the UK and EU will work together to boost participation.

Greg Clark, the Conservative chair of the commons science, innovation and technology committee, responded to the news by saying: “If the news of the UK returning to Horizon Europe is true, it will be a welcome boost for both UK and EU science.

“UK science always brings a lot to international collaborations. Everyone gains from excellent UK researchers working with others to advance knowledge.”