Non-EU R&D programmes exist . . . but full associated status to Horizon Europe is still vital
The Minister for Science, Research, Innovation and Universities Sam Gyimah recently spoke at the launch of the UK's chairmanship of EUREKA - a non-EU intergovernmental network that primarily helps SMEs to collaborate on R&D and bring innovative ideas to market.
In addition to EUREKA, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, the European Space Agency and the European Bioinformatics Institute are all bodies that are focused on Europe but are not part of the European Union. As well as chairing EUREKA from July this year, the UK plays a major part in all of these organisations, with the EBI already based in the UK. All of these organisations have members from all over the world, including Canada, Israel, and Japan, allowing the UK to foster international relationships on R&D.
These bodies supplement UK participation in European innovation outside of EU research and innovation Framework Programmes and demonstrate the important role that the UK plays in wider European research. However, they do not replace the importance of the UK gaining full associated country status to the EU’s Horizon Europe.
In his speech, Minister Gyimah also discussed the future EU-UK relationship on R&D. On the UK’s future association with Horizon Europe, he called for the need for a balanced approach that is mutually beneficial with a fair level of financial contribution, access, and influence.
Full association to Horizon Europe would involve paying a particular amount per annum, which based on precedent is likely to be billions of euros. The minister implied that if anything less than full association was offered then the UK would need to consider if it is a fair ask or not.
As we have blogged about previously, the government sees influence in Horizon Europe as a hugely important factor. The UK wants to make sure that its voice is heard in discussions in EU R&D bodies. Minister Gyimah gave the examples of the European Research Area and Innovation Committee, and the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructure, both which allow non-member states to have a say over priorities (non-member state Switzerland is represented on the ESFRI executive board). The UK is looking for this type of an arrangement.
It should be noted however that in many EU R&D institutions, associated countries typically have observer status, without the ability to vote.
According to the minister, the UK's contribution both in finance and in science excellence should be taken into account, and so the level of the UK's access to Programmes should not be constrained.
The UK government is interested in having a far-reaching science and innovation pact
The government has also set out its intentions for a potential agreement in its Framework for the UK-EU partnership on Science, research and innovation. In it, the government calls for a ‘far-reaching’ Science and Innovation Pact with the EU, a bilateral science and technology agreement similar to what the EU has with 20 countries around the world.
This pact would include the Horizon Europe association agreement and have to take into consideration management of access to the programme and infrastructure as well as external factors such as data sharing and protection, researcher mobility and intellectual property.
This pact would also involve continuing to host various EU bodies and enable an EU-UK relationship that allows for regular dialogue on themes and priorities and exchange of expert information.
So where do we go from here?
Negotiations are ongoing, and the recent announcement on the structure of Horizon Europe leaves the door open for both sides to benefit from a deal. EEF as the voice for UK manufacturing will be playing an active role in setting out the needs of the manufacturing sector on this topic.