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UUK says Horizon association could leave UK £3bn out of pocket

Image: Ivan Kacarov, Shutterstock

With a further £2bn in the red on Erasmus+ student exchange programme

The UK could be around £3bn out of pocket if it associates to the European Union’s next research framework programme, Horizon Europe, according to modelling from the vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK.

The director of UUK International (UUKi), Vivienne Stern, told the EU services sub-committee on the future UK-EU relationship in research and education, their modelling showed that for an estimated Horizon budget of €80bn (budgets are still to be finalised), the UK would need to pay in €15.2bn.

This means it would need to win 16 per cent of funding to break even; it now only wins 12.7 per cent.

This would, in turn, mean contributing a net of around £3bn to EU coffers over the seven-year programme. While Stern says UUKi is keen on continued participation, “even we think that doesn’t look fair”.

The calculations are based on what the UUKi says is the current European Commission position on payments, and on a number of assumptions about the budget and UK GDP.

Things are a bit more complex for Erasmus+ student exchange programme.

There, the UK’s net contribution is likely to be more than €2bn if it continues to participate at current levels, although the contribution to the UK finances of Erasmus+ students coming to the UK would turn this over the seven years into a €0.7bn net gain.

Richard Catlow, vice-president of the Royal Society, told the committee that while he was optimistic about UK science winning funding and was keen for Horizon participation, it could not be at any cost.

On 20 October science minister Amanda Solloway made it clear in response to a question by her Labour shadow Chi Onwurah that the potential cost of membership, and so any net loss, for Horizon Europe would come out of the UK science budget. 

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A version of this article also appeared in Research Fortnight