Worried British scientists want to know: where is the Horizon Europe budget?


It is still uncertain how much the United Kingdom will be contributing to the European research programme Horizon Europe. British scientists are beginning to worry.

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At the end of December, the European Union and the United Kingdom struck an eleventh-hour Brexit deal. Although the Brits have withdrawn from the Erasmus+ exchange programme, they will continue to participate in Horizon Europe, a seven-year European innovation and research programme.

However, not included in the deal was the amount the United Kingdom will be paying for its participation. That was expected to be revealed in the British national budget for 2021, but the British Minister of Finance, Rishi Sunak, said nothing on the topic during the budget's presentation last week.

Much to the astonishment of scientists and knowledge institutions, writes science platform Science|Business. Non-profit organisation CaSE is an advocate for British science and technology and sent a press release that very same day.

“For a Minister who claims to want the UK to be a ‘frontrunner in terms of scientific and technological revolutions’, the announcements about science funding were strikingly few and far between”, shared CaSE director Sarah Main. Participation in Horizon Europe will likely cost the United Kingdom around 2 billion pounds (or 2.3 billion euros) per year. But if that money ends up coming from the current science budget, Main warns the consequences will be severe.

In the Netherlands, the official kick-off of Horizon Europe took place online last Thursday. According to outgoing Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven, the coronavirus crisis has only highlighted interest in the importance of fundamental research. “Horizon Europe helps overcome new challenges”.

The total budget for the programme has been set at 95.5 billion euros. Dutch scientists tend to perform very well in the race for European funding. The previous seven-year research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 (with a 63.5 billion-euro budget) resulted in a net gain of five billion euros for the Netherlands, making it the frontrunner per resident in the EU ranking.

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