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UK resumes membership of European science deal

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-07 09:16
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File photo taken on Oct 19, 2019 shows the European Union flag and the Union Jack flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. [Photo/Xinhua]

The United Kingdom is to return to the Horizon Europe scientific research project from the start of next month, four years after it left it as part of the Brexit process.

The program, which is overseen by the European Union but that also has a wide range of non-EU member states as associates, runs until 2027 and has a budget of 95.5 billion euros ($103 billion).

"Our association with Horizon gives us a seat at the table in the world's largest research collaboration program," said Science Minister Michelle Donelan. "So, there's good news for scientists, for researchers, up and down the country in the UK.We're delighted that we've managed to get to a point where we reached an agreement."

The UK's bespoke deal will see it contribute around 2.43 billion euros per year to the program, as well as a membership fee of approximately 154 million euros for participation in the Copernicus Earth observation program, which is part of the EU's space program. The deal does not give the UK any voting rights within the organization.

In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, Donelan said her aim was for UK-based scientists to exceed their previous level of leadership in Horizon Europe, where, before the nation left the EU, they led 25 percent of projects. She said the government will also offer financial incentives and support for organizations to get involved.

"There will be some organizations and researchers who have got out of the habit of applying to Horizon," she said. "That's why we are going to actively promote and market the scheme."

She also rejected the suggestion that the lack of voting rights will mean the UK will lack influence.

" (Horizon) is now very global in nature, it is the largest research and collaboration program in the world," she explained. "New Zealand is a member, Canada is about to join, and more countries I know are eager to participate too. We will have a seat at the table. We will be able to lead programs."

The EU's Innovation Commissioner Iliana Ivanova said she was "happy to welcome the UK back to the Horizon family".

"This is a real milestone, a clear win-win for both sides and for global scientific progress … together, we can push further and faster. I have made association of non-EU countries to Horizon Europe my personal priority, and we are delivering," Ivanova said.

The news was welcomed by major science organizations in the UK.The Royal Society of Biologists said it was "delighted that UK and EU biologists will once again have access to the enormous benefits of collaboration", while the Royal Society of Chemistry said access to Horizon Europe was "vital for retaining the UK's position as a global player in international science… this move is warmly welcomed by the chemical sciences community".

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