How did the UK benefit from Horizon 2020?

31 Jan 2020

Image: © chokniti/

Scientists in the UK have received a total of £1.52bn from the EU through Horizon 2020, and many are now concerned about what will happen post-Brexit.

Ahead of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, British scientists have been expressing their concerns about the industry’s future without the support and funding of the EU.

Scientist Prof Richard Catlow told PA that the UK is in danger of “significant damage” if it loses its connection to European programmes as it departs from the EU.

Catlow said that the scientific community in the UK “wishes to have the closest possible association with future European funding programmes like Horizon.”

Horizon 2020, which was established by the EU as a funding programme for research and innovation, has been hugely beneficial to science in the UK. It’s expected that once the initiative is completed, the EU will offer further similar financial incentives for research and innovation.

According to Nature, Beth Thompson, head of UK and EU Policy at research charity Wellcome said that it is going to be “challenging” for the UK to agree on its future scientific relationship with the EU by the end of this year. She said that if an agreement is not met, “both the UK and the EU will lose out.”

A mock negotiation held between Wellcome and Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel suggested that there is only a “remote” chance that the UK and EU will settle on a wider trade deal before the year is out. However, science could be one industry in which the EU and UK agree to make an exception, as Horizon 2020 has been mutually beneficial for both parties.

What has the UK gotten from Horizon 2020 so far?

Horizon 2020, which began in 2014, had a framework for providing €80bn worth of funding for research and innovation projects over seven years. Of this funding, the UK has received £1.52bn so far, which is one of the highest amounts for any individual country.

The initiative also helped the UK to work with seven of its 10 closest collaborators globally: Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Belgium. The UK coordinates more Horizon 2020 projects than any other nation and is involved in more collaborations than any other European country with the exception of Germany.

Around a third (33.5pc) of UK research papers are co-authored with other EU and associated countries, compared to just 17.6pc of research papers co-authored with US researchers.

The UK’s projects under Horizon 2020

According to the Royal Society, cure rates for British children with leukaemia are being improved as a result of the IntReAll project involving researchers from Germany and the University of Manchester, funded by Horizon 2020.

Additionally, Horizon 2020 has contributed to to the development of clean buses with zero emissions, which operate in London and Aberdeen, due to the UK’s participation in hydrogen fuel cell projects funded by the EU.

The European Research Council (ERC) brought jobs to Merseyside with Unilever relocating 80 staff as part of a multimillion-pound investment in a materials chemistry hub with the University of Liverpool.

Additionally, the world’s largest nanoparticle manufacturing plant in Nottingham was opened by spin-out company Promethean Particles as a result of ERC-funded research.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic