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Since Brexit was voted on, UK citizens (though not exclusively) have been seeking clarity on its ramifications. In a post-Brexit era, initial and important implications of the UK’s relationship with Europe can already be discussed. UKRO (UK Research Office) has published a factsheet (that is continuously updating) with the latest reports on Brexit in relation to the UK’s participation in Horizon 2020. To clarify this dynamic UK-EU relationship – we will continue to break down and explain as new information follows suit.

 

The implications of Brexit on Horizon 2020 until it ends

Rightly so, many UK scientists are first and foremost focused on the more immediate effects of Brexit on acquiring funding for their research. For those considering to apply to the Horizon 2020 funding scheme, its availability to them has suddenly become a cause for concern. But, according to the UK official government policy – the status of UK in Horizon 2020 will largely remain unchanged until the end of 2020.

 

More specifically:

  1. The vast majority of participants and projects currently funded under the Horizon 2020 funding scheme will remain unaffected for the remaining lifetime of the project. They will continue to participate and receive funds as if the UK were a member state.  
  2. UK scientists will remain eligible for research grants under the current Horizon 2020 funding scheme. This will stay true until the programme ends.
  3. A very limited number of UK Horizon 2020 projects, which involve access to security-related sensitive information restricted for EU Member States, may be unable to continue.
  4. Under the EIC Accelerator Pilot (SME Instrument) – UK companies can only apply for the grant component and cannot ask for equity investment from the EU (i.e. blended finance option). 

 

This is very positive news indeed since there are virtually no immediate effects of Brexit on Horizon 2020 funding for UK researchers (aside from very specific cases). 

 

What happens after Horizon 2020?

Since Horizon 2020 is officially in its final year, attention is naturally also turning to the upcoming funding scheme – Horizon Europe. Again, UK scientists are already wondering what will be in store for them regarding the terms and eligibility to participate in the next framework program. To date – UK’s status in Horizon Europe is still unclear, but as can be understood, there are two possible options: allowing the UK to participate in Horizon Europe either as an “associated country” or as a “third country”.

 

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. This list includes Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Israel. The association agreements with these countries resemble the “member state” status in the program and essentially means 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 regarding Horizon Europe, 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 remain the same 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” (as can be currently seen in Horizon 2020) will be subject to special bilateral agreements and their constraints. 

 

Learn from the experience of applicants from an Associated Country

Enspire Science’s team is located in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and has vast experience in applying and consulting EU funding projects since FP4 (1996). Though our work spans to all EU countries, a part of it includes working with applicants coming from associated countries such as Israel, Switzerland and Norway.

 

We can report that working under these terms has no actual effect on any of these applications. Taking the example of Israel – Israeli applicants have participated in any of the Horizon 2020 calls, including ERC, with no problems or issues stemming from the “Associated country” status. Specifically, Israeli entities serve as regular partners in Horizon 2020 consortia, as well as coordinators in such projects, and PIs in ERC projects, just like participants from member states. 

 

Bottom line: we can report that the practical work of “Associated Country” entities in Horizon 2020 is no different than that of any member state.

 

Conclusion

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”.

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