What does the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement mean for UK science?
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and accompanying Joint Declaration on Participation in Union Programmes signed in December 2020 allow the UK to participate in the ninth EU Framework Programme, Horizon Europe, as an associated country. This gives UK based researchers access to the European Research Council (ERC), Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), grant funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC), as well as the right to participate in and lead consortia with EU and international partners. Beyond Horizon Europe, the agreement also allows the UK access to Euratom Research and Training, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) facility, the Copernicus Earth observation programme, and the EU’s Satellite Surveillance and Tracking services. The Joint Declaration confirmed that the protocol on UK association is agreed in principle. The UK will become an associated country once the protocol is signed.
Why is this important?
As a European science nation, the UK is part of a highly successful common endeavour that has brought significant advances to scientific knowledge and benefited people across Europe and the rest of the world. Maintaining a close partnership with the EU – the UK’s biggest and fastest growing scientific collaborator in terms of co-authorship – means that we continue to benefit from each other’s strengths. Explore our case studies on the value of applying for EU research funding.
What is Horizon Europe?
Horizon Europe is the EU’s ninth multiannual Framework Programme for research and innovation. It is the largest programme of its kind anywhere in the world, with a total budget of €95 billion. UK participation in its predecessor Horizon 2020 and earlier Framework Programmes was guaranteed by the UK’s membership of the EU.
What does it mean to be an associated country?
Association to Horizon Europe entitles UK participants to apply for grants and continue to form and lead consortia with international partners on equivalent terms to EU-based participants.
Is the European Research Council (ERC) part of Horizon Europe?
Yes. Association to Horizon Europe means that UK participants have full access to the European Research Council.
Which Horizon Europe schemes can the UK access as an associated country?
The UK can participate in all pillars of Horizon Europe with the exception of the European Innovation Council (EIC) equity fund. Schemes that UK participants have access to include:
- European Research Council (ERC)
- Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)
- Research Infrastructures
- The thematic Clusters and non-nuclear elements of the Joint Research Council (including Article 187 and 185 partnerships/joint undertakings)
- Grants from the European Innovation Council (EIC)
- European Innovation Ecosystems
- European Institute of Technology and Innovation
What does this mean for Horizon 2020 recipients?
Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe are separate programmes. The UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement maintains full UK participation in Horizon 2020 for the lifetime of projects. This means that UK participants can continue to receive grants awarded under Horizon 2020 until their end date.
What happens if association continues to be delayed?
The protocol on UK association is yet to be formally adopted owing to wider issues concerning the EU-UK relationship. To provide reassurance to UK-based applicants, the UK government has announced a guarantee to cover the first two waves of Horizon Europe calls until association is formalised. It has also said that the money budgeted for association will be protected in all scenarios and is exploring alternatives to association should they become necessary. Guidance on the guarantee scheme is available on UKRI.org.
Where can I find further information?
The European Commission has published a Q&A on the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe and has an online portal for funding opportunities. Detail on ERC call dates is also available. Further information can be found at GOV.UK, EUROPA.eu, and UKRO.ac.uk.
Can I still apply for Royal Society funding?
The Royal Society remains committed to providing funding for outstanding scientists wherever they are from. The opportunities we offer to researchers from around the world who are either working in the UK or intending to work in the UK are listed below with links to further information.
Early career researchers
Senior career researchers
Researchers with an interest in industry, innovation and/or interdisciplinary research
Researchers with an interest in international research or wishing to be a co-applicant on an international project
Find out more about the Royal Society's work following Brexit
The Royal Society is working to ensure the best outcome for research and innovation following Brexit and support continuing relationships and build new ones across Europe and beyond. Read our Q&As on visas and immigration issues and regulations affecting science. Visit our Brexit and UK science page for more information.
This page was last updated on 25 March 2022