UK officially rejoins Horizon Europe research programme

7 Sep 2023

Image: © Thaut Images/

Part of the deal includes a tax break for the time the UK was excluded from the programme and an automatic ‘clawback’ to protect its recovery.

From today (7 September), UK scientists will once again have access to Europe’s €95.5bn science research funding programme.

The UK government secured a bespoke deal that will enable the country to rejoin Horizon Europe following years of uncertainty and failed negotiations in the aftermath of Brexit.

Horizon is the largest funding instrument for research and innovation in Europe. The seven-year initiative runs from 2021-2027 and is a successor of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The fund is designed to strengthen science and technology in the EU, boost the region’s capacity and competitiveness in innovation, and deliver research projects that serve the EU’s priorities.

However, Brexit caused a wrinkle for the UK’s membership of the programme and continuous delays in formalising an agreement came to a head when the EU officially blocked UK-based scientists and researchers from accessing the fund.

The block came amid the UK’s plans to rewrite elements of the Northern Ireland protocol last year. In the months since, Horizon Europe has welcomed other states such as New Zealand and Canada into the research programme.

‘Unparalleled research opportunities’

According to the government, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has now secured “improved financial terms of association to Horizon Europe that are right for the UK”, which will allow the country to participate as a “fully associated member” of the programme until 2027.

“With a wealth of expertise and experience to bring to the global stage, we have delivered a deal that enables UK scientists to confidently take part in the world’s largest research collaboration programme – Horizon Europe,” said Sunak.

“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.”

As part of the new deal, the UK will also joining Copernicus, the European Earth Observation programme, providing the country with the ability to bid for contracts, which they haven’t been able to access for three years.

UK-based researchers and scientists are able to apply for grants and bid to take part in projects under the Horizon programme from today.

The new deal means UK taxpayers will not pay for the time UK researchers were excluded (from 2021 to 2023), with costs starting from January 2024. The UK will also have a new automatic ‘clawback’, which means the UK will be compensated should scientists from the region receive significantly less money than it puts into the programme.

Michelle Donelan, UK secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, said today is a fantastic day for UK science. “We have listened to the sector, and through hard work and negotiation we have secured an excellent deal for researchers, taxpayers and businesses,” she said.

“The Horizon programme is unrivalled in its scope and opens up a world of opportunity for cooperation on science that delivers real-world benefits for the UK – creating jobs, boosting our economy and opening up collaboration for the sector with some of our closest partners, whether on tackling climate change or advancing cancer research. This deal is a crucial step forward on our mission to become a science and tech superpower by 2030.”

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic