What is Horizon Europe?
Horizon Europe is the EU’s funding programme for research and innovation projects for the years 2021 to 2027. The programme has a budget of €95.5 billion. It is the successor to Horizon 2020 and the previous Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.
The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) states that the UK shall participate as an ‘associated country’ in all parts of Horizon Europe. Associate members can participate in Horizon Europe under the same conditions as EU member states, except in cases where specific limitations are agreed to safeguard the EU’s strategic interests.
Associate membership would grant UK-based researchers access to all of Horizon Europe’s funding opportunities except the European Innovation Council Fund (which is only available to countries participating in the EU’s financial instruments).
The EU has, however, so far refused to sign off the UK’s associate membership of Horizon Europe and other programmes. This is widely seen to be due to wider disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol. In response, the UK in August 2022 launched formal dispute proceedings against the EU, over what it claims is a breach of commitments laid out in the TCA.
The first stage is a consultation between the UK and EU. If a solution is not found, the UK can escalate the complaint to an arbitration tribunal, which will make a final, binding judgement on whether the EU has breached the TCA and any action it needs to take in response.
Due to the ongoing standoff, UK-based researchers cannot access funding they successfully applied for under Horizon Europe, unless they move to an EU-based institution.
The UK government has outlined an alternative plan which guarantees to match that funding, and to transfer ongoing UK-based applications to Horizon Europe to a UK review scheme and funding pool. How the government plans to match Horizon Europe’s funding and opportunities for collaboration over the longer term remains unclear.