The Russell Group of universities in the UK has warned that the window for the country’s association to Europe’s research and development funding scheme, Horizon Europe, is “closing, and closing fast”.
Chief executive of the Russell Group, Tim Bradshaw, has said that while UK government is right to be considering ‘Plan B’ options, not solving the association challenge would be detrimental to both the UK and Europe.
“It increasingly feels as if we are right on the brink, with association to be snatched away before the summer,” he said ahead of the League of European Research Universities 20th anniversary conference on May 19 and 20.
“The fact that Horizon Europe seems to have become tied up in wider political debates is a matter of regret, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” Bradshaw added.
UK association to Horizon Europe was included in the Brexit deal, but agreement is yet to be formally finalised.
In February, stakeholders across the UK and the continent launched the Stick to Science initiative in a bid to lobby political leaders in Switzerland, in the UK and Brussels and EU member states on Horizon Europe association.
At the end of April, director of UUKi Vivienne Stern warned that “this is really a situation where we are running out of time”. The organisation has made it clear since the EU referendum in the UK that the “unanimous preference” of the sector is to seek full association to Horizon Europe.
“It was clear from the start that association is the preferred outcome for UK and EU research efforts, giving us the best opportunity to bring people together and build the kind of multidisciplinary, international teams that are required to help us tackle major global challenges,” Bradshaw said this week.
“Failure to move forward with UK association would be bad news for research”
“The UK government is right to be considering ‘Plan B’ options as a fallback and our universities are ready to work to make a success of any alternative arrangements should they be needed. However, make no mistake: failure to move forward with UK association would be bad news for research and a second best outcome for both the UK and the EU.
“We all know there is a point at which the UK can no longer hold on and alternative arrangements will need to be put in place. I can tell you today that the window for association is closing, and closing fast.”
The Russell Group has been in “constant dialogue” with UK government and “there is a genuine commitment from the Science minister and others to getting association over the line if we possibly can”, Bradshaw continued.
“I urge you all to ensure that you are also making the case with your own governments and officials within the commission before it is too late.”
On May 10, the European Commission said it would increase the initiative’s budget by nearly €562 million, focusing on innovative solutions to green, health and digital challenges, and bringing the program’s budget for 2021 and 2022 to a total of nearly €16 billion.
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