Russell Group and European counterparts raise alarm over Horizon Europe restrictions

Joint statement urges European Commission not to block UK and other associated countries from space research and quantum computing projects

The Russell Group has joined research-intensive university groups across Europe in a joint statement signalling their commitment to cross-border collaboration.

The statement also asks the European Union not to block associated countries from parts of the Horizon Europe programme.

The Russell Group, U15 (Germany), UDICE (France), The League of European Research Universities (LERU), and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities – together representing representing 77 universities – are concerned about proposals in the European Commission’s work programme for Horizon Europe that would restrict the access of associated countries such as the UK, Switzerland and Israel, to certain parts of the Horizon Europe research programme, including quantum computing and space research projects.

These proposals run counter to the agreement made between the UK Government and the European Commission in December 2020 that, as part of the post-Brexit trade deal, Britain would participate in Horizon Europe as an associated country, meaning full participation in the research programme on the same basis as member states.

“Research and innovation are the keys to unlock a global post-Covid recovery but also to tackling the biggest problems facing society and spearheading cutting edge technology – without international collaboration that becomes so much harder,” said Russell Group chief executive Dr Tim Bradshaw.

Our university groups which represent thousands of talented researchers across Europe have signalled their determination to continue working together to deliver the best experience for our students and staff while driving the innovations that can improve all of our lives. 

We are concerned about proposals to restrict the UK, Switzerland and potentially other countries’ access to certain parts of the programme, including quantum and space projects, after an agreement was reached in good faith

As we reiterate our commitment to cooperation and excellence in research, we urge the European Commission to do the same by not placing limitations on how the UK and other associated counties can use Horizon Europe, such as access to quantum and space research projects.” 

Joint statement of research-intensive university groups in Europe: in full

The commitment and friendship between European research-intensive universities is as strong as ever. Our history of mutual collaboration and shared success provides the foundations for continued strong partnership and close collaboration.

The UK’s association to the Horizon Europe programme is a promising outcome, welcomed across Europe. As an associated country, the UK will participate in the programme on the same basis as EU Member States from the first calls, as confirmed by the European Commission here. This is a clear signal of the strength of that partnership and the enormous benefits it provides to research. We hope that the same positive signal can soon be given with regard to Switzerland’s association to Horizon Europe.

However, we are concerned about proposals to restrict the UK, Switzerland and potentially other countries’ access to certain parts of the programme, including quantum and space projects, after an agreement was reached in good faith. We urge the European Commission to reconsider its stance.

The role of scientists and researchers in the fight back against the pandemic underlines the benefits of cross-border collaboration, and Horizon Europe will provide the framework for many more successful collaborations. Researchers based in all our universities are now ready to seize these opportunities, work together, and submit bids with confidence.

Similarly, universities across the UK and Europe are committed to working together to maintain student exchanges and enrich the student experience. We will continue exploring options with our respective Governments to support and smooth the vital flow of students and researchers between our countries.

Signatory parties: German U15, Russell Group, UDICE, LERU, The Guild


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