Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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Brexit Britain set to pull plug on £15bn EU funds and invest in 'exciting' OWN UK project


Britain had initially planned to contribute £15billion over a seven-year period so researchers and institutions could access the EU’s Horizon Europe programme. This is the bloc’s key £80billion key research and innovation project which would have let Britain collaborate with partners in Europe. But the UK was banned from the project over Brexit disputes as relations with the bloc came under strain when Lord David Frost was Brexit Minister.

Britain was told it cannot participate until it resolves these Brexit disputes like fishing licenses and the Northern Ireland protocol, a delay which the science community has not been best pleased with.

Britain’s Horizon Europe applicants have likely been holding their breath as they wait for new Brexit negotiator Liz Truss to strike a deal and avoid an Article 19 trigger (which would see the UK permanently excluded).

But now, heads may have been turned.

Science Minister George Freeman claims he has an “exciting” plan in the works.

Instead of simply collaborating with scientists from within the EU, Britain can look to partners from all around the world.

Mr Freeman believes this may be an even more enticing prospect than contributing to the EU scheme.

He has even argued that universities in the US, Australia and Asia are of “better quality” than our European partners.

But he did recognise that at this current moment, most scientists still want Horizon Europe to be a priority.

Speaking before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the Science Minister said that “nearly all” of the scientists he had spoken to would prefer Horizon Europe.

But only 20 percent said they “can’t envisage an alternative”.

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Mr Freeman added: “There is a very exciting opportunity to make it a very powerful global UK and international programme that drives bilateral and multilateral research.”

And he seemed convinced that this would be able to get the science community to change its mind and back an alternative to the bloc’s project.

He said: “If we were to do that, quite a lot of people might say: ‘That sounds really exciting’ and ‘I’m not sure which I prefer – that or Horizon.”

The Science Minster has already given British researchers a glimpse of what “plan B” might look like.

In January, Freeman announced that 12 key UK research programmes would receive £17milllion in funding.

The grant came from thehe Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and was part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

While only a drop in the ocean compared to the EU’s vast pool of funds, the cash handed to a range of projects likely brought a boost to these important research projects.

It also encouraged collaboration with partners not just in Europe, but elsewhere in the world too.

Prof Rajiv Ranjan from Newcastle University was “very excited” to be receive the £!.5million boost to his Internet of Things (IoE) project, which also involves partners in Australia.

Mr Ranjan told Express.co.uk: “It is a good approach to look for partners outside of the EU, not to just restrict ourselves to European partners.

“I believe after working with Australia and other places that they [the EU] are missing a research culture or research excellence, they don’t really inform top scientific publication or top scientific fact the way other countries like the US, Hong Kong and Singapore.”



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