The European Union and the United Kingdom Government have finally come to an Agreement concerning the UK’s entry into the Horizon Europe Programme as an Associate Member. It is an “in principle” Agreement and also includes the Copernicus Programme. Entry into both Programmes were part of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement but this has been delayed due to the EU’s insistence that there were linked to an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The progress to an Agreement has seen many false starts but this Agreement seems a lasting one With UK re-entry into the North Sea Energy Co-operation Grouping and signatory of the Ostend Declaration, there are signs that relations between the UK and EU are warming.
One of the major problems in the Horizon Europe discussions was the size of the UK contribution to the Programme. A Joint Statement from the UK and the EU stated that UK researchers did not participate in Horizon Europe from its beginning in 2021. For the first two years of the Programme, the UK Government has operated a Guarantee system so that the UK Government virtually guaranteed the funding for a UK partner rather than the funding coming from Horizon. Many observers and project partners were not happy with this arrangement and it has badly affected UK participation in the programme. The UK/EU Joint Statement states that “for calls from the 2023 Work Programmes, the European Commission will continue to administer transitional arrangements and the UK will continue to provide funding under the UK Guarantee.” It goes onto say that UK partners “will be able to fully participate in the Horizon Europe programme on the same terms as partners from other associated countries, including leading consortia, from the 2024 Work Programmes and onwards – including any 2024 calls opening this year.”
The Joint Statement indicates that the UK and EU will “undertake joint outreach and engagement activities designed to encourage the participation of UK entities within both programmes.” This will be really important. UK partners were key players in Horizon 2020 projects until the UK officially left the EU and it is important that this role is re-established. However, in Horizon 2020 UK partners took more out of the Programme than we put in. The UK contribution from 2024 to 2027 is thought to be around € 2.2 billion and the total amount of UK participation will not be allowed to exceed that figure.
In terms of advice, the UK Government maintained its Contact Point Network and so did Scottish Enterprise and Scotland Europa. Webinars were organised and well attended but the uncertainty of funding was a major problem. NS HyMaP also puts information about Calls in its Information Bulletins and highlights areas of interest to the North Sea ports and maritime sectors. We can advise members on project development and partner search as well.
Colleagues will be interested in the Annual Project Calls from the Clean Hydrogen JU (formerly FCH JU) and these form part of the Horizon Europe Programme. Calls usually close at around Easter.