December 14th, 2021
Update on ‘safety net’ as UK association to R&D programme is delayed
The government has announced a ‘financial safety net’ for researchers who have successfully applied to Horizon Europe but are unable to sign grants and access EU funding due to delays to the UK’s association to the €95.5 billion (£80.5bn) R&D programme.
This means that UK Research and Innovation will step in to provide the funding for the first wave of successful applicants to Horizon Europe if association is not achieved in time. Further details from UKRI, including eligibility, scope and how to apply, will follow in the coming weeks.
While George Freeman, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, admits this is not a long-term solution, this is welcome news.
The University of Nottingham has already seen over 90 proposals submitted to Horizon Europe, with three European Research Council proposals through to second stage interview.
We strongly encourage our researchers to continue to apply to Horizon Europe and maintain this excellent record of engagement. Whatever the outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU, we remain committed to developing innovation networks with European partners.
We all recognise the huge benefits of the UK and EU that working together in the field of research and innovation brings. Our university is continuing to engage with policymakers, via the Russell Group and other avenues, to ensure that they fully understand the importance of association with Horizon Europe, and the damage to confidence in collaborative activity that uncertainty can cause.
We will also input to UKRI and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to ensure administration of the safety net funding is fit for purpose and workable, and we will be ready to handle any administrative challenges.
We are also informing the debate on other potential outcomes. In an open letter to our research and development sector, Mr Freeman reiterates the UK’s commitment to Horizon Europe. However, if we are unable to associate, he says the government will look to longer term solutions to maintain and build partnerships with European innovators, with the funding currently allocated to Horizon supporting this.
It is frustrating that association with Horizon Europe has yet to be formally signed off by the European Commission and that scientific cooperation has become entangled with wider disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
However, being able to participate on a level playing field and as an equal partner with fellow European research institutions is tremendously important.
We will continue to lobby for this and stress the importance of fellowships, collaborations and engagement with Europe, while urging our researchers to continue to open up new conversations and be alert to such opportunities.
Anyone interested in pursuing European funding, wanting more detail on the ‘safety net’ or advice on the various strands of funding available and the support at Nottingham, should contact EU Development Manager Matthew Rackley or their local research development professional.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange
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