Brexit and EU Research Funding – January 2021 update

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Now that the EU and the UK have reached an agreement on their future relationship, Áine Ryan, International Research Funding Manager in Edinburgh Research Office, writes about what this means for UK-based researchers’ access to EU funding.

We finally have some clarity about the UK participation in future EU research funding programmes, primarily Horizon Europe. As part of the agreement reached between the UK and the EU, the UK has announced that it will associate to Horizon Europe. Association will give UK-based researchers and businesses access to funding under the programme on equivalent terms as organisations in EU countries.Europe and surrounding areas seen from space.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the 9th Framework Programme through which the EU will fund research and innovation. It will run for seven years from 2021-2027, and will be funded by the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Although the Withdrawal Agreement protected UK participation in Horizon 2020, it did not cover access to Horizon Europe, so UK access was dependant on securing a deal on the future UK-EU relationship.

The UK intends to become an Associated Country to Horizon Europe

The UK will become an ‘Associated Country’ and will be eligible to participate in Horizon Europe as if it were still a member state. We will be able to apply for ERC, MSCA and collaborative calls as before. Switzerland, Norway and Israel are examples of countries who are Associated Countries to Horizon 2020.

Timelines for association

The process for becoming an Associated Country can take time. Every country that wishes to become associated must negotiate an individual deal on association with the EU. At the time of writing, we have no clear indication of when a UK Association Agreement will be finalised. However, a great deal of detail has already been included in the EU-UK agreements, which was done to accelerate the process of association. Importantly, at the time of writing, the sections of the Horizon Europe legal text that outline the rules for association are still to be ratified. This was delayed until the terms of the EU-UK agreement had been finalised. Other countries planning to associate to Horizon Europe have been waiting for the EU and the UK to complete negotiations, before they could work on their association negotiations.

Eligibility to apply for Horizon Europe funding, including ERC call deadlines in early 2021

Even if the formal association agreement takes time to complete, it is still possible that if a call deadline falls before the association agreement is finalised, UK researchers may still be granted eligibility to apply – this has been done for Switzerland in the past. For the upcoming ERC deadlines (Starting Grant 09/03/2021 & Consolidator Grant 20/04/2021), we are awaiting official confirmation of eligibility, but we strongly recommend that any interested applicants begin drafting their applications with those deadlines in mind. We will keep you updated, primarily via the ERO EU & Intl funder insights page and the Edinburgh Research Office blog.

Horizon 2020

The Withdrawal Agreement that was signed in January 2020 guarantees that the UK can continue to participate in the EU programmes – including Horizon 2020 – that are financed by the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). This funding will continue for the lifetime of awarded grants, and the funding will continue to be paid directly by the EU. Official information confirming this is available from UKRI, UKRO, UK Government  and the European Commission. Please share these official sources with your European collaborators who may be concerned about the impact of Brexit on any Horizon 2020 funded projects.

Support available from Edinburgh Research Office

You can read more about Horizon Europe and Brexit on our dedicated EU & International Research Funding page (University of Edinburgh access only).

This was originally published on Edinburgh Research Office’s blog.

Photography: DKosig/GettyImages