The publication, Supporting UK R&D and Collaborative Research Beyond European Programmes, is a very significant step forward.
A broad road map from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), it opens a conversation as to how we can deliver programmes that protect and stabilise the people and systems that make the UK such a successful science partner, and how we can support UK research and innovation on a global scale in the future.
It enables us to think positively about future collaborations and plan the all-important projects we need to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges.
As a responsible steward of the research and innovation system, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) continues to plan for all scenarios. This publication outlines the framework on which we at UKRI will help to deliver an alternative programme if necessary.
The publication demonstrates that if we don’t associate, there will still be clear paths for the UK’s world-leading researchers and innovators to continue to collaborate internationally.
Equally crucially, it pledges attractive routes for top talent from the rest of the world to join us here.
The publication outlines four pillars for long-term programmes:
- prestigious talent programmes with long-duration funding
- end-to-end innovation that addresses key challenges
- global collaboration, including continuing to participate in Horizon Europe through the third country route
- boosting investment in the infrastructure and institutions that underpin research and innovation.
I believe those are the right things to focus on. I encourage everyone with an interest in research and innovation to engage with these plans, which illustrate the potential and exciting opportunities for individuals and businesses, and to work with us to develop our thinking.
UKRI is already supporting Horizon Europe grant holders by delivering the guarantee that the government initiated to ensure money could be released to successful applicants while negotiations are ongoing.
We have received hundreds of applications to date and have already paid out on awards. We will publish data on the guarantee fund shortly.
And with guarantee systems now fully up and running, UKRI is ready to embrace any change of scope to eligibility including, if necessary, non-association.
Other transitional measures
In the event of non-association, our most pressing priority will be to provide immediate stability for the UK’s science, research and innovation sector and to implement the practicalities of switching from an established system to a new one. We are setting up the systems for those now, so they will be ready if needed.
Plans to increase support for existing schemes and formula funding are already well advanced, as you can see by the level of detail in BEIS’s publication.
The issue of how to deal with applications that are ‘in-flight’ at the time of switching to UK alternatives is operationally and legally complex. We are working hard to iron out the details and will update very shortly.
UKRI has delivered at pace in difficult situations before and I know that we will handle this too, using the lessons we have learned from, for example, the guarantee fund and our rapid response to the COVID-19 crisis in 2020.
This publication is just the start of understanding how we can work on globally significant research programmes if the UK doesn’t associate. It prompts questions, many of which neither UKRI nor the government can answer right now, but it does free us up to talk about exciting future plans and seek input from relevant communities.
It also demonstrates there is a strong future for the UK’s role in research and innovation, whatever the outcome of negotiations with the EU, and it is a future which I am confident we can deliver by working together.
For more information see Horizon Europe: help for UK applicants.
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