The greatest research funding program in the world will once more include the United Kingdom. And it couldn’t come any sooner.
On either side of the English Channel, people could be heard celebrating the fact that UK academics can now take part in Horizon Europe, the largest research funding program in the world, and the the Copernicus Earth observation program for all of Europe.
On September 7, the UK government made a brief announcement at seven in the morning along with a long list of glowing recommendations from top researchers. They varyingly said, “Thrilled,” “delighted,” “excellent,” and “huge.”
The choice, which shouldn’t take so long to make, has eased and delighted us as well. More than ever, UK scholars must work with peers in Europe and internationally to address the “polycrises” of environmental deterioration, economic challenges, and dangers to peace and security.
The United Kingdom will pay €2.6 billion annually to join the €95.5 billion (US$102 billion) program. Given the strong opposition the present UK administration has to the European Union, this was bound to be a difficult task. Even as recently as July, the choice was still up for grabs, but happily, the case for joining prevailed.
Rishi Sunak, the prime minister of the UK, is reportedly not persuaded by the advantages. One of the justifications against participating was that the UK has already missed the initial 2.5 years of financing for the program; the program was started in 2021 and will continue until 2027. In addition, protracted delays in joining the program would have made it more difficult for researchers from the UK to participate in or take the lead on multi-year initiatives.
Despite the fact that negotiations were back on track in April, UK officials unveiled a cooperative program dubbed Pioneer a few days later with the goal of “strengthening the United Kingdom’s claim as a technological and scientific superpower.” The idea received an overwhelmingly negative response from UK science leaders, and some openly expressed concerns that the country might not join Horizon Europe.
Global problems and innovation receive about 75 percent of the funding from Horizon Europe. Over 40,000 researchers have already signed up for the program, many of whom have been connected to one another and the program for a long time. Simply put, if the United Kingdom had opted to go it alone, it would not have been feasible for it to equal the power, breadth, and complexity of such a system.
This publication advised the nation of England and the EU to “cherish what you accomplished and stay close” as Brexit officially went into effect on January 31, 2020. The time since has demonstrated how to avoid doing it. The number of European researchers employed in the UK has drastically decreased, and some British scientists who had been awarded Horizon Europe funds had to resign from their positions. The majority of British colleges and universities are in the midst of separating from the regulatory requirements for higher education in Europe. The nation has also withdrawn from the Erasmus+ program for student exchange in Europe. The Turing scheme, which is the UK government’s replacement program, provides funding for adolescents in the country to study, travel, and work anywhere on the globe for up to a year.