Dear Prime Minister, dear Mr Clark
We write in connection with the Horizon research programme which has ensured around £1b of investment in British science, research and innovation annually for the last decade, across a wide range of subjects, benefiting every region of the UK.
Horizon is one of the most successful international science collaborations in the world. It typically involves joint collaborations such as the Human Brain Project which involves universities from across the UK, including Oxford, Edinburgh and Cardiff. [Horizon is the biggest single programme for science and research in which the UK participates.]. Its next phase will involve an investment of some €80bn.
Non-EU countries participate in Horizon. Although, Britain has left the EU, after the end of the transition period, the UK can have associate member status in Horizon, at the same time as building, and cooperating with, research initiatives in the USA and in Asia. That associate status would preserve the value of our existing collaborative research relationships with the institutions of EU countries, which has been built over the past 40 years and which is a national asset.
The Government has said that it will replace lost Horizon funding. That is not the point. Although funding is essential, it is the collaboration with other leading institutions, with the resulting cross-fertiisation of ideas and the pooling of skills, capabilities and research expertise, that drives the highest level of results. That comes through participation. Virtually all great science and research today is international and collaborative, as shown by the extraordinary efforts in response to the Corona virus. (In addition, participation in Horizon enables funding to be very efficiently used, with reduced duplication, leading to a better return on UK investment.)
Participation in Horizon, would not only preserve the existing valuable relationships, it would enhance, rather than inhibit, the value and prospect of research relationships with other non-EU countries. But without it, UK research will suffer a very serious blow at a time when it is critical for the UK’s future, as Global Britain, not only that it does have world-leading research, science, technology and innovation capabilities but also that the UK is seen internationally in that light. The UK’s science and research supports such critical areas for the UK’s future as life sciences and medical, motor industry, artificial intelligence, specialist materials technologies, aviation and space, and environmental. The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has strongly recommended that the UK remains a member of Horizon.
A recent statement by a wide range of science research institutions and leaders, such as the Wellcome Trust, Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate and head of the Francis Crick Institute in London, and Pascal Lamy, former director-general of the World Trade Organization, proposes how Horizon would work for the UK in future years as an associate member. The paper calls for UK participation in Horizon, for the UK to set aside funding for full association in Horizon Europe in its science budget, EU control over spending (which the USA also accepts as part of its own Horizon participation) but agreement on the contribution the UK would make (including a two-way correction mechanism for balancing any substantial disparities between initial contributions and eventual receipts from the programme to ensure that the UK’s contribution was reasonable) and freedom for the UK to use the research outputs. To take full benefit from participation, there also need to be effective arrangements in place for the continued mobility of scientists and researchers working on Horizon related projects between the countries of Europe.
We urge you, therefore, to implement an appropriate structure, taking account of the practical suggestions above, for the UK’s participation in Horizon to protect the interests of UK science and research, and the interests of the UK itself, for the future.