‘The research and science community on both sides of the channel continue to make clear that full UK participation in Horizon Europe remains the best outcome…’
The UK government is providing funding of £484 million in support of research and development while the country remains outside of the EU programmes Horizon Europe, Eurotron, and Fusion for Energy. The UK argues that the EU is refusing to finalise its association with these programmes as agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) of 2020.
The government has said that the investment will provide targeted support for ‘staff retention and local talent strategies at eligible universities and research organisations, as well as ensuring that UK labs remain world class and at the cutting edge of R&D’. The support builds on the Horizon Europe guarantee scheme extended in September. During August the Government released a Policy Paper setting out transitional measures, as well as an overview of a long-term vision for Horizon Europe.
The latest funding includes £200 million for the UK Research Innovation (UKRI) World Class Labs Fund, as well as the UK’s Public Research Establishments such as the National Physical Laboratory and the Met Office, helping them maintain their status as international centres of excellence. In addition, £100 million will be made available to English universities, delivering a ‘one-off boost’ allowing them to strengthen research capabilities.
George Freeman, Minister of State for Science, Research, and Innovation released an open letter as the announcement was made, in which he said: ‘It remains the government’s preference to associate to EU programmes as envisaged under the TCA, but we cannot wait forever to invest the funding set aside for association in our world-leading R&D sector. While the EU continues to delay our participation, this package ensures that universities and research organisations are able to continue to attract and retain talent, invest confidently in their research infrastructure, and protect the UK’s reputation for excellent research.’
The EU block on UK entry in Research programs means we have to act.— George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP) November 21, 2022
Today we’re announcing £480m new #ResearchSupport:
🏙£100m QR for UK Universities
⚙️£200m UK R+D Infrastructure
🔮£42m #FusionIndustry Prog
🔮£84m for JET CulhamSC https://t.co/2V2LDZ638Y
Freeman added that the package announced came in response to what the research community had said were its biggest challenges. ‘These investments will provide targeted support during this time of uncertainty. They will support staff retention and local talent strategies at eligible universities and research organisations,’ he said.
Professor Linda Partridge, Vice President of the Royal Society said: ‘Today’s announcement shows the government’s commitment to putting science at the heart of plans for increasing productivity and driving economic growth.’
As the funding announcement was made, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was using a speech at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to also press home his conviction that innovation was important for economic growth. ‘To me, innovation is much more about new ideas, new ways of doing things that drive economic and social progress […] So, it starts with government investment in basic science and research. In last week’s Autumn Statement, we protected the budget for research and development. And we’re investing in high-risk, high reward research with the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency’ – referring to the £800 million agency launched under the leadership of ex-DARPA (US) Deputy Director, Peter Highnam, earlier this year.
Sunak added ‘It’s private sector innovations that really drive growth. That’s why the Autumn Statement cut taxes to encourage larger companies to do more research and development.’
Commenting on the £484 million in funding, Stephanie Smith, Head of Policy (Research and International) at the Russell Group, representing 24 leading UK universities said: ‘The additional funding will provide some welcome support to the research sector in the short-term while discussions regarding UK association with Horizon Europe continue.’
Smith added: ‘The research and science community on both sides of the channel continue to make clear that full UK participation in Horizon Europe remains the best outcome, and we hope to see a breakthrough soon that will unlock the enormous benefits it would bring to the UK and EU.’