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CaSE calls on government to make association with EU research programmes a priority

22 Dec 2021

CaSE and other organisations from across the sector have written to the Chief Negotiator to the EU urging him to reach a political agreement so that the UK can fully take part in EU research programmes.

CaSE’s comments accompanying the letter were covered by BBC News and CaSE’s Executive Director Professor Sarah Main also appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme to discuss the importance of the issue.

The full letter can be found below:

Dear Lord Frost,

We are fast approaching the anniversary of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement. That agreement paved the way for the UK to join Horizon Europe and other major research programmes, delivering a crucial outcome for science and innovation.

The agreement was testament to the hard work and good will of negotiators in the UK and EU, and speaks directly to the government’s science superpower ambitions. Horizon Europe is the ‘Champions League’ of research, and the UK will continue to benefit from being part of it. Across the UK, researchers are working on the biggest global challenges together with partners across the world. Cancer, Covid and climate change all demand that researchers work together across borders, and the UK’s membership of Horizon will help ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of this work.

However, as you know, the UK’s association to the programme has not yet been formalised, as it is currently entangled with the outcome of the ongoing UK-EU political discussions. This means that UK-based researchers and innovators are currently unable to sign Horizon grant agreements. The Government has helpfully announced funding guarantees to manage this uncertainty while negotiations continue.

We are writing now to reiterate the sector’s view that if the UK’s association to Horizon is not secured it would squander the hard-won agreement of December 2020 and leave both the UK and EU in a weaker position to collaborate and use science and innovation to address the global challenges we face. We must not be tempted to imagine that alternatives will somehow be easier. They will not.

Joining Horizon Europe is an ‘oven ready’ agreement which you have worked hard to achieve. To come so close to ensuring effective research cooperation through Horizon Europe and yet now allow it to go to waste because of wider disagreements would be a tremendous failure of politics. UK researchers can cope with further uncertainty in the short term if the long-term prize is Horizon Europe association.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Farrar (Director, Wellcome)
Adrian Smith (President, Royal Society)
Anne Johnson (President, Academy of Medical Sciences)
Alistair Jarvis (CEO, Universities UK)
Tim Bradshaw (CEO, Russell Group)
Sarah Main (Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering)
Michelle Mitchell (CEO, Cancer Research UK)