Lord Frost gives update on UK’s participation in Horizon Europe
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The UK was supposed to contribute £15billion over seven years to participate in the EU’s Horizon Europe programme, as part of the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. But despite the deal, the bloc told Britain it cannot participate until it resolves its Brexit disputes with the EU.
Researchers and institutions who were promised they could access the huge £80billion pool of funding and collaborate with European partners were left furious by the decision.
But now, the UK is looking to strike deals with at least six other partners, including Switzerland, Israel, and the UK’s Five Eyes partners (the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).
This is part of a “bold Plan B” that Science Minister George Freeman has promised, which he also dubbed his “£6billion Global Britain Science Plan”.
Mr Freeman headed to Tel Aviv in Israel last week, where he reportedly struck a deal with the Middle Eastern nation.
While not revealing exact specifics, the Science Minister said: “Thank you to all the brilliant scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers in Israel for a brilliant visit and agreement on a new UK-Israel R&D collaboration.”
Mr Freeman also headed to Geneva to discuss striking a deal with Switzerland last month.
The Swiss are in a similar situation to the UK in that they were also banned from Horizon Europe over a political feud.
After his trip, the Science Minister tweeted: “The UK and Switzerland are science powerhouses with huge, shared research interests.
“Between us, we have nine out of 10 of the top Universities in Europe.”
Mr Freeman has also suggested that the will also involve teaming up with other science and innovation powerhouses like our Five Eyes partners, as well as countries like Japan.
In fact, in an appearance before the Science and Technology Committee, Mr Freeman agreed that universities in the US, Australia and Asia are of “better quality” than those in Europe.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has shown his full support for Mr Freeman’s plan.
He told the Science and Technology Committee: “Frankly, over the year, looking at what we get out of Horizon, the costs, I think we can actually operate Plan B successfully.
“We demonstrated that in the vaccine roll-out. There are huge amounts of investment. When I travel around the world people are really really keen to invest in UK innovation.
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“We have got a great story, and I think that Plan B.. can really work very well.
“We’re working full steam ahead.”
But this comes after British scientists were left in the dark for months as to where their funding would come from, fearing their European partners would slip away.
Ludovic Thilly, chair of the executive board at Coimbra Group, said: “We cannot accept any longer that scientific cooperation be held hostage to bilateral politics.”
But Mr Freeman set up contingency plans to assure Horizon Europe applicants that would still get grants they were promised even if Britain’s participation is blocked.
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