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The primary frameworks for non-member states participating in this programme are associated country status and third country status.

Associated country status

E.g. Switzerland, Norway, Israel

Associated  countries  are entitled to the same  co-funding  opportunities  and  participation rights  as  EU  Member  States,  including  allowing  researchers  from  these  countries  to  lead  consortia, the opportunity to share EU-funded research facilities and apply for funding from the European Research Council. At the moment, associated states are either a member of EFTA/EEA or have bilateral agreements with the EU as part of the single market.

Associated countries have the rights and obligations of a Member State but do not have the right to a formal vote at the Programme Management Committee. They also negotiate a financial contribution based on GDP. Regulation is dependent upon the mechanism of association, such as the EFTA/EEA or the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Mobility and free movement varies with associated country status, but the majority of associated countries, with Israel being a notable exception, have free movement of persons.

It is likely that future associated country status could be dependent upon the UK softening its previous position in offering the free movement of people, unless the EU softens its position on it.



Third country status

E.g. Canada, US, China

Nations with third country status have a bilateral/technological agreement between themselves and the EU.

Third countries have limited availability to the framework programmes and no influence on programme development and implementation. Researchers based in third countries cannot access European Research Council funding unless they will be hosted in a member state or an associated country for the duration of the funding grant. Additionally,  funding  must  be  provided  by  the  country  to  resource  any  collaboration.

Under this mechanism, researchers have to relocate to the EU or to an associated country to be eligible for certain aspects of funding. Regulation varies depending upon the third country’s bilateral agreement. The bilateral agreement also covers aspects of mobility.

Third countries typically aren’t as successful as member states and associated countries in securing funding and the level of funding received by them has declined. Grant agreements including third countries fell from 20.5% in 2009 under the previous framework FP7 to 11.7% in 2016 under Horizon 2020.


The government has asserted its intention to attain full associated country status in Horizon Europe…with a condition

Prime Minister Theresa May this week gave a speech setting out the UK’s intention to attain full associated status to Horizon Europe and Euratom research and would pay appropriately to do so. This willingness to pay accordingly is tempered by the government’s condition that the UK would be willing to do this only in exchange for an ‘appropriate level of influence on the shape of the programme. This should be greater than current non-EU precedents, recognising the quality and breadth of the UK’s contribution.’

The government has not yet clarified immigration arrangements for researchers in the UK after Brexit, it does says the future relationship should be “underpinned by researcher mobility.”

The Prime Minister also discussed in her speech the next steps around Grand Challenges, a crucial catalyst for various elements of the industrial strategy. In her speech she set out missions under the Grand Challenges. This will place a strategic framework around the industrial strategy involving public and private collaboration, and help to deliver the maximum economic benefit for the UK. Whilst not explicitly linked to EU research and development, the topic of Grand Challenges as part of the Innovation Strategy is part of the wider UK innovation eco-system, and is important to consider as the UK continues towards its investment in research and innovation and its target towards spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027.

As we await the EU’s response to the UK’s intention to be fully associated to EU research frameworks, it will be interesting to see how far either negotiating side will compromise in order to achieve a mutually beneficial agreement on research. EEF as a representative of manufacturing will be setting out the needs of the manufacturing sector on this important topic.