Lord Frost gives update on UK’s participation in Horizon Europe
Despite the Trade and Cooperation Agreement outlining that the UK would take part in the EU’s key science programmes, including the £80billion Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom, the bloc told Britain it cannot take part until the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute is resolved. But 18 months later, with no resolution to the Brexit feud, the UK’s access to these programmes remains blocked.
Now, the Government has had enough, and is launching “formal proceedings” against the bloc in a bid to end the delay.
If successful, this could bring a huge sigh of relief to British researchers who had been promised EU funding following successful applications for Horizon grants.
Dr Anne Corbett, a Senior Associate at LSE Consulting, said: “This has to be a good move by the UK.
“At last! The EU’s linkage of Horizon with the Northern Ireland Protocol was cynical.
“Negotiations on the precise question of Horizon offer hope.
The UK’s legal action against the “cynical EU” has been praised
Researchers were promised EU grants via Horizon
“UK brings battle over access to Horizon Europe to a head.”
A number of researchers were promised grants in the millions, intended for crucial research projects across fields ranging from cancer to new cutting-edge technologies.
But UK-based researchers were dragged into the political feud as collateral damage, with hundreds warned by the EU that their funding would be cut unless they moved to a country associated with Horizon.
One of those researchers, Moritz Treeck, a malaria researcher at the Francis Crick Institute in London, was awarded a €2million (£1.7million) European Research Council (a prestigious pillar of Horizon) grant.
But he is now considering packing up shop and moving to a “host” country, or else he could lose the cash intended for ground-breaking malaria research.
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Brussels told the UK it cannot take part until it resolves the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute
He said: “We became part of political leverage around the Northern Ireland Protocol, but nobody benefits from it. It’s purely stupid.
“But I don’t think the UK Government will change its mind over the Protocol just because of a few ERC awardees. We are small fish in the big game.”
Hendrik Ulbricht, a quantum physicist at the University of Southampton, is also eyeing up a departure from the UK in order to keep hold of his grant.
He said he was given multiple offers from abroad to carry out his project, which involves creating gravity sensors that could be used to detect oil deposits and other underground masses.
But the EU dealt a “big blow” to his project’s dreams.
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Many researchers are considering relocating to receive the fund for their projects
Following a notification from the European Commission, he was forced to hand his leadership role to Italian colleague, and he brought in a new partner from Germany, delaying the project start date to October 2022.
Prof Ulbricht said: “It was a big blow. I had basically invented the project and chosen the partners.
“I was looking forward to coordinating the project. It’s disastrous for me
Giovanni Travaglino, a social psychologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, was awarded a €1.5million (£1.3million) grant to investigate how people let themselves become controlled by mafias and organised crime rings.
He weighed up moving to the EU or another host country to keep the grant, but accepted the UK’s backup funding and is now staying in Britain.
Ms Truss said the EU is “in clear breach of our agreement”
He said: “I was looking for a very specific type of institution, and perhaps in a very restricted set of countries.
“You want to be in a place where you want to live and work, regardless of the grant.
“I’m committing myself to having to live in the UK for the next five years. It’s hard to dismantle everything and just go.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is also expected to become the next Prime Minister, said in the statement: “The EU is in clear breach of our agreement, repeatedly seeking to politicise vital scientific cooperation by refusing to finalise access to these important programmes.
“We cannot allow this to continue. That is why the UK has now launched formal consultations and will do everything necessary to protect the scientific community.”