Over six months ago we noted that UK researchers may soon be able to regain access to ‘Horizon Europe’, a pot of funding and the ability to collaborate across Europe. These collaborations have been particularly important in 2023, as biotechs have tried to navigate downward pressure on fundraising rounds.
Many in the British (and European) scientific communities will be delighted that UK researchers will be able once again to work more effectively across the continent, as well as access the much needed financing. However, there has also been frustration with the lengthy delay in readmission, particularly given both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s attempts to prioritise UK science (particularly in life sciences).
In its announcement, the Government has tried to highlight new financial protections for the British taxpayer, such as the UK not having to pay costs for the period it was not a member (which does not seem a major win), as well as a new clawback if the UK receives less than it contributes. However, this may be a piece of Treasury sleight of hand, as the UK tended to be a “net beneficiary” until departure in 2020.
Overall, this is rightly being welcomed across British universities and industry, and represents a more stable and internationalist UK than has been seen under successive Conservative Government. However, the UK Government will soon come under pressure to introduce genuinely new proposals, particularly with an election looming and the Labour Party also seeking to prioritise the sector.
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