Yesterday, I led a Westminster Hall debate on the issue of Horizon Europe and UK research and development funding. After the recent publication of the government’s fallback programme – Pioneer – this timely debate saw support for association with Horizon from across parties.
We are now at an important stage of discussions with the EU. With the agreement of the Windsor Framework ending the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the way is now clear for an agreement to be reached regarding the UK’s association with Horizon Europe.
Horizon and its predecessor programmes have been integral to supporting the UKs world-leading research for the last 40 years. As the single largest collaborative research project in the world, it provides participants with unparalleled routes to international research partnerships both within and beyond the EU.
I used my speech to highlight not just the economic benefit for UK universities and business from Horizon participation, but the importance of the collaboration and non-financial benefits that Horizon association would bring – from attracting research talent to giving us a seat at the table for shaping the direction of international research.
As a well-established programme, Horizon offers access to a ready-made collaborative funding scheme making it easier to work with multiple countries. Through access to these international markets, Horizon provides a springboard to research and business partnerships worldwide. These global collaborations have laid the foundations for vital breakthroughs like the covid vaccine
The proposed Pioneer alternative commits to matching Horizon’s £14.6 billion spending, as well as its 7-year programme length, but it will be subject to spending reviews, unlike Horizon. Researchers and business leaders all agree that Pioneer would be a poor alternative to Horizon because it does not provide certainty and clarity to the UK R&D sector.
The Government must make a decision. Are they serious about retaining Britain’s position as a global research superpower, and about promoting and sustaining economic growth? If they are, we need to see real progress over the coming weeks to securing association and showing that the government have understood the vital role that research plays in economic growth.
You can read more about this debate and my contributions here.