Research community demands rapid UK association with Horizon



Prominent members of the European Union’s research and innovation community issued a joint open letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, calling for “swift and decisive action” to end the current stalemate over the realization of the UK’s association with Horizon Europe, the EU’s € 95 billion (US $ 110 billion) research and innovation agenda for 2021-2027.

Signatories include representatives from over 1,000 universities, 56 academies of science and 33 rectors’ associations.

They also represent thousands of the most distinguished European researchers, including more than 10,000 European Research Council fellows and more than 20,000 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action Prize holders, as well as doctoral students in almost all of them. Member States.

Collectively, they demand full association in the UK as soon as possible. They warn that the lack of a clear timeline for finalizing the UK association is now causing growing concern.

“This lingering uncertainty risks endangering current and future collaborative plans,” they said.

“We are rapidly approaching a critical point. As the first Horizon Europe grant agreements approach and new calls will be launched soon, the British association must be finalized without further delay, ”the letter said.

“Now is the time to act quickly and decisively. Further delays or even non-association would result in a missed opportunity and a major weakening of our collective research strength and competitiveness.

“We urge the European Commission and the UK government to work for a successful UK association with Horizon Europe, in order to protect this valuable and mutually beneficial R&I. [research and innovation] Cooperation.”

The current stalemate is linked to the feuds over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the arrangement which allows Northern Ireland access to the European single market but creates the need to control goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, which some describe as placing an economic border in the Irish Sea.

European Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel in October, in an interview with Science | Business, confirmed that the UK cannot join Horizon Europe until disagreements over the Northern Ireland Protocol are resolved.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to the Northern Ireland protocol in order to “get Brexit done”, but since Brexit he has been trying to change it. UK Science Minister George Freeman has said there is a Plan B if the EU does not allow the UK to join Horizon Europe. But British Chancellor Rishi Sunak set aside £ 6.9 billion (US $ 9.4 billion) for his contribution to Horizon Europe through 2025 in last week’s budget.

The EU knowledge community has collectively welcomed the provision in Protocol I of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement allowing the UK to partner with Horizon Europe. The European Commission’s subsequent question-and-answer document gave them assurances that UK entities could apply with EU partners for the first multi-beneficiary calls.

‘Based on the protocol and these assurances, over the past 10 months our universities, businesses and research institutes have worked with UK partners with a common vision and in good faith that the UK would soon be an associate member full-fledged, ”they said.

Professor Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), said the UK is a major power in research and innovation with some of the most important research-intensive universities in the world.

“Over the past decades, UK and European universities have tackled common challenges and forged close partnerships through the EU’s Research Framework Programs.

“A swift UK association with Horizon Europe is vital to continue these close collaborations and address the many societal challenges that lie ahead. A further delay simply for political reasons is unacceptable. As is the case for Switzerland.

Switzerland was relegated to third country status in July after disputes over its payments to the EU Cohesion Fund and negotiations over the future shape of EU-Switzerland relations.

Professor Jan Palmowski, General Secretary of the Guild of Research-Intensive European Universities, said: “If the UK’s association with Horizon Europe is not achieved, the capacity of science and innovation in the UK and in the EU is weakened.

“If the Horizon Europe association is made for the EU’s closest and strongest scientific partners, the United Kingdom (and also Switzerland), we are strengthening the capacity of researchers to meet our complex societal challenges together – and we make Horizon Europe even more attractive for other third countries to associate. “

German U15 Secretary General Dr Jan Wöpking said: “The UK is a world leader in science. The EU too. UK universities are among the closest, most reliable and strongest partners of our universities. We will only solve the crucial challenges facing the world by combining our strengths in research and innovation.

“We have no time to waste. The UK association process should be finalized as soon as possible. The same goes for Switzerland.

UDICE General Secretary Dr Hélène Jacquet said: “As research-intensive French universities, UDICE members are all deeply involved in long-lasting and fruitful scientific partnerships with UK universities. . These partnerships are crucial to tackle major challenges such as climate change, the digital transformation of our economies or global health.

“Strong collaborations between EU and UK universities lead to more knowledge, more discovery, more innovation for the benefit of the well-being and prosperity of European citizens.

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