Universities fear UK at ‘precipice’ of Horizon Europe exit

Universities UK has written to the European Commission, urging it do all it can to maintain British participation in Horizon Europe

Universities UK has written to the European Commission, warning its support is crucial if the UK is to avoid crashing unwittingly out of Horizon Europe.

Prof Paul Boyle, vice-chancellor of Swansea University and UUK policy chief for research, wrote to Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission, warning universities in both the EU and UK are facing a “lose-lose”.

After conversations with the government, UUK believes the UK is now at the “precipice” and could formally announce its exit in June.

Uncertainty has meant UK researchers have been unable to make the most of UK interim involvement. Results from the early calls in Horizon Europe saw far fewer partnerships with UK institutions than under the previous scheme, Horizon 2020. Prof Boyle said holds up had “weakened” the appeal of the EU research funding programme in the eyes of ministers.

After a 17-month wait for confirmation of UK membership, the delay in agreeing to Horizon Europe has forced researchers to quit promising projects without certainty of funding. Although the situation “is deteriorating every day that the uncertainty drags on”, Prof Boyle said to allow the UK to leave would “do a disservice to future generations”. Under the previous scheme, the UK was the second most frequent participant – in the first year of the current framework, the UK has slipped to seventh.

UUK fears a split would be irreversible.

Wrote Prof Boyle: “As a valued European ally, we would like to draw your attention to the gravity of the situation and to request a meeting with UK vice-chancellors to explain in greater detail just how immediate and serious this threat is.”

Read more: Scientists launch campaign urging European leaders to end impasse on Horizon Europe

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