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‘Finally!’: UK and EU R&D leaders react to Horizon Europe deal


Sector ‘opens the champagne’ as UK finally associates to EU R&D programme

Members of the R&D community on both sides of the Channel have reacted with delight and relief to the news that the UK and the EU have struck a deal on association to Horizon Europe.

On 7 September, the UK government and the European Commission confirmed that an agreement had been reached on UK access to the EU R&D programme, as well as the EU’s Earth observation programme Copernicus, bringing an end to over two years of negotiations.

However, the UK will not be associating to the EU fusion programme Euratom, instead taking forward its own fusion strategy.

‘Fantastic news’

UK Royal Society president Adrian Smith welcomed the agreement as “fantastic news, not just for the UK but for scientists across the EU and for all the people of Europe”.

“Science has so much to offer in terms of tackling global challenges and improving lives. Today, the government and the EU have given that a big boost,” he said.

“Science is all about international collaboration and association is a big win. It allows us to continue to build on decades of collaborative research with our European partners and step up our global collaborations too to keep us as a nation at the forefront of science and innovation.”

In a post on the social networking site X, formerly known as Twitter, Maria Leptin, president of the European Research Council, said: “Finally!!! A huge and warm welcome back to all researchers in the UK.”

Sarah Main, executive director of the UK Campaign for Science and Engineering, said the news would bring a “burst of joy to UK science and will provide the foundation for long-lasting economic health and technological value to the UK”.

“The many organisations that lead with science and research in the UK, including big business, startups, universities and health charities, will be delighted with this news.

“With this renewed certainty, scientists and engineers across the UK and Europe can now accelerate their ideas and collaborations, which drive the economy and improve the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere.”

Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of the League of European Research Universities, which has members in the UK and the EU, said: “This agreement represents a major achievement for research and innovation in Europe. We are delighted to finally see the UK’s association to Horizon Europe, as it will foster collaboration, knowledge exchange and groundbreaking discoveries for the benefit of society as a whole.”

Also posting on X, Jan Palmowski, who was secretary-general of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities—which likewise has UK and EU members—for much of the negotiation period and is now its lead on Africa-Europe relations, commented that association was a “huge moment” that would “strengthen UK, European and global science”.

Work to do

Some commentators said that attention would now need to turn to making up for lost time.

Julia Black, president of the British Academy, said: “All of us in the research and innovation community must now drive forward UK participation in Horizon Europe, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, working with counterparts elsewhere in Europe and globally to forge the exciting and fruitful collaborations and partnerships that Horizon Europe enables us to deliver over the long term.”

Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group of UK research-intensive universities, home to numerous Horizon grantees, said the deal was a “true win-win for everyone” but that work would now be needed.

“The research community on both sides of the Channel are raring to go and will spare no effort in making our association a success. Universities have plans in place to get researchers to apply and our partner universities and businesses across the EU—and in other associated countries—are eager to work with our institutions,” he said.

“We will be ready to work with government and the Commission to make the most of Horizon’s opportunities from day one and beyond into its successor.”

Thomas Jørgensen, director of policy coordination at the European University Association, said that he thinks cooperation will “snap back” to the previous level, but that the “next risk” is regulatory divergence between the UK and the EU on areas such as data protection.

But for now, he added, it is “time to open the champagne and celebrate”.

A version of this article appeared in Research Europe