What is the UK's current relationship with the EU on science?
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed in December 2020 allowed for the UK to participate in the EU’s current Framework Programme, Horizon Europe, as an associated country. Due to the subsequent political dispute over post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, the signing of the association protocol was then delayed for several years, leading to a period of renegotiation between both sides. The revised association deal was finalised in September 2023 with the UK’s formal admission to Horizon Europe as an associated country beginning in January 2024. 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 deal also allows the UK access to the Copernicus Earth observation programme. The UK government is pursuing domestic alternatives to Euratom Research and Training.
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 will 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) excluding the EIC Fund
- European Innovation Ecosystems
- European Institute of Technology and Innovation
What is the Horizon Europe guarantee scheme?
To cover the period when the UK was not associated to Horizon Europe, the UK government launched a guarantee scheme to fund successful UK-based applicants who were unable to sign grant agreements with the European Commission. The guarantee remains in place for 2021-2023 funding calls. For calls dated 2024 and subsequent years, funding for successful UK-based applicants will come via the Commission under the terms of association. 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 Copernicus, and has an online portal for funding opportunities. Detail on ERC call dates is also available. Further information can be found at GOV.UK including an association explainer, 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 available on our grants pages.
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 27 September 2023