Scientists rejoice: the UK rejoins the Horizon Europe programme

A Win for Science

Scientists rejoice: the UK rejoins the Horizon Europe programme

Read a summary or generate practice questions using the INOMICS AI tool

International cooperation is important for economic growth, because it allows societies to grow more than they could on their own. When countries specialize in the economic areas they are relatively more productive in (utilizing their comparative advantages) and trade with other nations, everyone is made better off.

This general maxim can be applied to the growth of knowledge as well as the trade of physical goods. When researchers are allowed to specialize in their own topic areas and then collaborate with the other researchers around the world, knowledge – and therefore human capital – grows more than it would otherwise. Research and innovation can therefore be thought of similarly to the trade of physical goods; the more that is shared, the merrier.

That’s part of why news about an agreement between the UK government and a prominent EU research program have given European and UK-based researchers – including many economists – renewed hope in the future of science.

The Horizon Europe program

On September 7, 2023, it was announced that the UK is set to rejoin the Horizon Europe research programme, after an agreement between the UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. It is expected that the UK will rejoin the programme effective January 1, 2024.

The Horizon Europe programme is a framework for collaborating research across borders in the EU (and around the world) that includes researchers from top research institutes, technology companies and universities. The programme presents a framework of societal goals, some shared by member nations, and some (such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) that are not just limited to relevance in the EU.

The programme benefits researchers by streamlining complex administrative requirements and allowing access to a wide pool of potential funding; together, this makes it easier for a diverse body of researchers to work together, which lowers the barriers to advancing science. The programme notably features an open science mandate as well, helping to break down artificial barriers to sharing knowledge.

According to a fact sheet released by the European Commission, as of 2021 the programme accounted for 17% of global R&D expenses and was at least partially responsible for 25% of the world’s top scientific publications. It has a budget of €95.5 billion across the years 2021-2027, which it grants to research projects across six different topic “clusters”.

Funding in the programme is not just limited to EU countries. While a small proportion of each project’s team is usually required to be EU-based, researchers around the world are very much allowed to be part of research teams that receive funding from the programme.

Suggested Opportunities

History with the UK

Originally, the UK remained part of the Horizon programme even after the “no deal” Brexit situation came to pass. However, the UK left the programme after negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol caused relations to grow tense.

This had several effects detrimental to the progress of science, particularly in the UK. It became more difficult for researchers in the UK to collaborate with colleagues in other parts of the EU through Horizon-funded research, and it cut off UK funding to Horizon Europe research projects.

On top of the difficulties introduced by Brexit, this made it more difficult for scientists to conduct research in the UK, and less attractive for prospective scientists to settle in the UK or seek partnerships with UK-based institutions or researchers. Organizations based in Europe, uncertain about the future ability of their UK colleagues to cooperate in a post-Brexit landscape, were incentivized to find non-UK options for funding and research collaborations. As a result, the UK lost a significant number of researchers and received significantly less money from EU sources.

What does this mean for economists in Europe?

By rejoining Horizon, the UK is unlocking unparalleled research opportunities. This has the potential to alleviate much of the pain caused in the past few years.

Economists in Europe, particularly those in the UK, should find that this change is positive or neutral for their work, with little downside. It will be easier for economists to collaborate with British or European colleagues, and funding might be more accessible for some projects. Moreover, science as a whole will benefit as researchers face fewer barriers to international collaboration and increased access to funding.

To learn more about Horizon Europe, consider downloading a fact sheet about the programme, available at the European Commission’s website.

Have you or your department been affected by the changes in the UK’s status in Horizon Europe, or have you been affected as an academic post-Brexit? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Header image credit: vwalakte on



You need to login to comment


The INOMICS AI can generate an article summary or practice questions related to the content of this article.
Try it now!

An error occured

Please try again later.

3 Practical questions, generated by our AI model