University welcomes return to Horizon science programme

The University of Leeds has welcomed a newly signed deal which allows the UK to officially rejoin the Horizon Europe programme.

A man and a woman look inside a large technical microscope

Horizon Europe is the EU’s key £85 billion funding initiative for research and innovation.

The development means that UK-based researchers will have instant access to Horizon Europe projects on the same terms as when the UK was a member of the European Union.

Professor Simone Buitendijk, University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor and President, said: “To tackle the great issues faced by our planet, we must share expertise worldwide and work towards common goals.

“This is only possible if structures are in place for collaboration to happen. Reigniting Horizon Europe in the UK will help finance and foster closer allegiances that will have a real impact on a global scale.”

Although initially having associate membership to the scheme after the UK formally left the EU in 2020, UK researchers had been excluded from Horizon Europe for the past three years because of a disagreement over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The uncertainty during the last two years has had a significant impact on Leeds’ participation in EU projects, with a 39% reduction in applications.

However, when compared to a 50% reduction across the whole of the UK, this demonstrates Leeds’ strong desire and commitment to the excellent collaborative research opportunities provided through Horizon Europe.  

Indeed, Horizon Europe has been an integral part of Leeds’ collaboration in EU initiatives, successfully winning 49 awards to date. 

The University has maintained its connection with European researchers by keeping our Europe Office in Brussels - headed by Phil Holliday - meaning that we are well set to capitalise early on the UK’s association with Horizon

Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, leads on our international strategy. He said: “We have continued to proactively engage with the European Union throughout the Brexit process, in readiness for today’s welcome announcement. 

“For example, in March I represented the Russell Group at a meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy’s Horizon Working Group, as part of a formal exchange of views on UK’s association to Horizon.”

With the associated member status now signed, researchers at Leeds can now fully engage with the programme and seize the opportunities available to them.

More than 50 confirmed applications are already being prepared for various schemes, including the MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships, MSCA Doctoral Networks and Collaborative top-down calls under Pillar II - Global Challenges & Industrial Competitiveness.

As the UK is now once again a fully associated member for the remainder of the programme – which runs until 2027 - Leeds can again coordinate projects as Lead Beneficiary, including doctoral networks and large collaborative grants.

It is anticipated that Horizon Europe awards funded through the UKRI guarantee fund will continue to receive their funding from this source for the duration of the project.

Professor Nick Plant, University of Leeds Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation said: “Clearly this is excellent news for Leeds and the wider University sector. I look forward to seeing Leeds continue to capitalise upon the opportunities Horizon Europe offers and expand its impactful international collaborations.

“We are hopeful that association signals the UK’s long-term commitment to EU collaboration and our active participation in negotiations for the successor to Horizon Europe.

“We would also urge that the good work to develop Pioneer - the alternative to Horizon Europe - is not abandoned and that a long-term and cohesive programme of agile funding to support talent, infrastructure and collaborations is put in place to complement UKRI and Horizon Europe activities.”

The University’s 49 Horizon Europe awards have included seven ERC Fellowships, 12 MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships, six MSCA Doctoral Networks, two MSCA Staff Exchanges as well as partnership in 22 collaborative projects aiming to address the EU Soil Mission - one of the biggest challenges in sustainable food production.

Today’s announcement also confirms that the UK will associate to Copernicus, the EU's £8bn Earth observation programme. Britain will not, however, be rejoining a nuclear research alliance known as Euratom R&D, although there is an agreement to cooperate specifically on nuclear fusion.

The European Commission has said the decision would be "beneficial to both" and stated that "overall, it is estimated that the UK will contribute almost £2.2bn per year on average for its participation to both Horizon and Copernicus.

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