The UK is to return to the European Union’s £85 billion Horizon science research programme following months of negotiations.
The Government said a “bespoke” new agreement has been signed off with the EU, with UK researchers able to apply for grants and take part in Horizon projects.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We have worked with our EU partners to make sure that this is right deal for the UK, unlocking unparalleled research opportunities, and also the right deal for British taxpayers.”
Britain continued to participate under the post-Brexit trade deal brokered with Brussels but was frozen out in a tit-for-tat retaliation in a dispute over Northern Ireland arrangements.
The move is likely to be welcomed by scientists, amid warnings that UK researchers have been missing out on collaboration with colleagues in the EU.
It was quickly welcomed by UK business leaders, with John Dickie, Chief Executive of BusinessLDN, saying: “This breakthrough will support the UK’s position at the cutting-edge of research and development. It also sends an important signal that we are willing to seize the wider network benefits that Horizon Europe offers – alongside funding for individual projects – from being part of a world-leading consortium of scientists, researchers and businesses.
“The previous Horizon programme led to 31,000 global collaborations, with nearly 2000 businesses from across the country benefiting directly, including many smaller firms and start-ups. Russell Group universities alone won 1400 European Research Council grants worth €1.8bn – more than the whole of France – which was only made possible due to the UK’s association with Horizon.”
Greg Clark, chairman of the Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, said the news would be “a welcome boost for both UK and EU science”.
He added: “UK science always brings a lot to international collaborations. Everyone gains from excellent UK researchers working with others to advance knowledge.”
Nicola Perrin, chief executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), said: “Finally the news we’ve been wating for – the UK is rejoining Horizon Europe.
“Ongoing Government commitment to cross-border collaboration in research is crucial to deliver benefits to patients. This will help improve confidence and stability in UK research, in which charities play a vital role.
“The announcement will be a huge relief to charities, and the researchers they fund.”
Meanwhile, Science Secretary Michelle Donelan has hailed a new agreement that will allow the UK to rejoin the European Union’s £85 billion Horizon science research programme as “absolutely fantastic” for Britain’s scientists.
Speaking to Times Radio on Thursday she said: “It’s absolutely fantastic news.
“Fantastic news for scientists and researchers up and down the country, but also businesses as well, and the British taxpayer because what we’ve got here is a fantastic deal that’s in everybody’s interest.
“If we’d have took the deal on the table that we were presented back in March, we wouldn’t be having the same conversation today because this really does provide value for money for the taxpayer, as well as giving that crucial certainty to our scientific community.”
More to follow