Satellite Bulletin: Brexit - Implications for Research and Innovation Funding - Horizon 2020

29 July 2016

Joanne Wheeler

There have been many debates about the implications of the UK public's vote on 23 June 2016 to leave the EU. Several concerned queries have been voiced about the implications of Brexit on research funding and Horizon 2020 support.

Framework Programmes

The Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development, abbreviated to FP1 to FP7 (with FP8 being named "Horizon 2020"), are funding programmes created by the European Commission to support research in the European Research Area (ERA).

The focus of Horizon 2020 funding is innovation, delivering economic growth and offering solutions to end users including governmental agencies. It is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available between 2014 and 2020.

The objective is to ensure that Europe produces world-class science, that barriers to innovation are removed and to seek to ensure that the public and private sectors work together to deliver innovation.

Post referendum decision

From a legal perspective, the UK's decision to leave the EU has no immediate effect on participation in Horizon 2020 programmes as the UK remains an EU Member State, bound by EU law, at least for around another 2 years. Expectations seem to suggest that most grants will have been awarded by the time of the UK's eventual exit.

UK companies seeking to participate in Horizon2020 projects can continue to apply under the same terms and conditions, including as project coordinators; UK companies should not be discriminated against. Minister Jo Johnson is in contact with Commissioner Moedas (Commissioner in the Department of Research, Science and Innovation until 2019) in this regard. The UK must however ensure its on-going compliance with its EU funding obligations.

When the UK leaves the EU it may take on the position of an “Associated State” , similar to Norway and Switzerland and other non EU countries, and therefore will continue to receive the full benefits from H2020 (the UK is currently a net beneficiary). Such "Association" agreements however usually include, as a precondition, the granting of free movement of workers – which will be controversial.

It is difficult to predict at the moment what such Association agreement may look like and what its implications will be; but without such an agreement post Brexit, the UK would likely be excluded from any further participation in FP projects.

Moving forward - UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

On a national basis, recognising the importance of  innovative high growth companies, the UK Government have announced the intention to create a public body, UKRI, operating at arm's length from the Government and bringing together the 7 existing Research Councils. Innovate UK will be incorporated into this new body, while maintaining a distinctive business focus.

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