Since Brexit was voted on, UK citizens (though not exclusively) have been seeking clarity on its ramifications. Truly, it is far too soon to acquire any solid bottom lines or jump to any clear-cut conclusions. Nevertheless, initial and important implications of the UK’s future relationship with Europe can be discussed. Recently, UKRO released an updated factsheet with the latest updates on Brexit in relation to UK participation in Horizon 2020. We will continue to update as additional information follows suit.
The most recent Horizon 2020 Work Programmes released July 2nd 2019 included an updated disclaimer regarding the effects of Brexit on Horizon 2020.
The disclaimer is as follows:
“Please note that until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, when it comes to rights and obligations; this includes the eligibility of UK legal entities to fully participate and receive funding in Horizon 2020 actions such as those called for in this work programme. Please be aware however that the eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the UK withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, they will no longer be eligible to receive EU funding and their participation may be terminated on the basis of Article 50 of the grant agreement.”
The disclaimer above can indeed sound alarming since it refers to the termination of grants. That being said, we are still in a position to believe that what will happen is in line with the rest of the article below.
The implications of Brexit on Horizon 2020 until it ends
Rightly so, many UK scientists were focused on the more immediate effects of Brexit to acquiring funding for their research. For those considering to apply to the Horizon 2020 funding scheme, its availability to them suddenly became a cause for concern. According to the UK official government policy (published on December 2018) – until the end of 2020 the status of UK in Horizon 2020 will remain unchanged.
This means that:
- UK scientists will remain eligible for research grants under the current Horizon 2020 funding scheme. This will stay true until the programme ends.
- Participants and projects currently funded under Horizon 2020 funding scheme will remain unaffected.
- “Member state” status or “Member state-like” status will remain the case for the lifetime of individual projects already funded by Horizon 2020.
This is very positive news indeed. Virtually no immediate effects of Brexit on Horizon 2020 funding for UK researchers. All UK researchers can continue to apply for EU funding schemes as normal.
What happens after Horizon 2020?
With Horizon 2020 nearing its end, attention is naturally turning to the following funding scheme – Horizon Europe. Again, UK scientists are already wondering what will be in store for them once Brexit is finalized. Though it is not certain that UK scientists will be able to participate in the next Horizon Europe funding programme, that latest Brexit draft agreement offers a very positive scenario. As can be understood, the current option is focused on allowing the UK to participate in Horizon Europe as a “third” or an “associated” country, rather than as a “member state”, as it is now.
What it means to be an “associated country”
Currently, there are 16 countries (in Europe and outside of Europe), which are “associated countries” to the Horizon 2020 programme, including Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Israel. The association agreements with these countries resemble the “member state” status in the program and essentially mean they can participate in Horizon 2020 under the same conditions as legal entities from the Member States. This mechanism is expected to remain as such in Horizon Europe as well. In other words, if an “associated agreement” is reached between the UK and the EC, not much will change with regard to the ways UK researchers can opt to secure funding through EU funding schemes.
What it means to be a “third country”
As for “third country” status, the situation is a bit different. “Third country” is basically any country in the world (beyond the member states and the associated countries) that seeks participation in the Horizon 2020 program (this mechanism will probably be similar in Horizon Europe). However, unlike in the case of “associated countries”, which their status is practically equivalent to the “member state” status, the participation of “third country” in Horizon 2020 is subject to special bi-lateral agreement and its constraints. As UKRO reports the UK government “is seeking discussions with the European Commission to agree the details of the UK’s continued participation as a third country”. So far, such an agreement was not reached.
Learn from the experience of applicants from an Associated Country
The Enspire Science team, being located in Tel-Aviv, Israel, has vast experience in applying and consulting EU funding projects since FP4 (1996). Though our work spans to all EU countries, a part of the work our team has done to date was with applicants coming from associated countries, such as Israel, Switzerland and Norway.
We can report that working under these terms has no actual effect to any of these applications. Taking the example of Israel – Israeli applicants have participated in any of the Horizon 2020 grants, including ERC, with no problems or issues stemming from the “Associated country” status. Israeli entities served as regular partners in Horizon 2020 consortia, as well as Coordinators in such projects, and PIs in ERC projects, like other participants from member states. Bottom line: we can report that the practical work of “Associated Country” entities in Horizon 2020 is no different than compared to any member state.
To conclude, there is still a lot to be uncovered about the definite effect of Brexit beyond Horizon 2020. Though a change is certainly in the Horizon, it seems we can at least be hopeful that the UK will continue to be involved in European research moving forward, this time as an “Associated Country” or as “third country”.