The impact of Brexit deal on the participation of UK based organisations in EU funded projects

18th January 2021

The Brexit deal is the start of a new era in the relationships between the EU and UK. Although it provides a number of answers to many questions and concerns, the resolution of all the uncertainties related to the participation of UK based organisation in EU funding programmes will still require some time and further negotiations.

The ECHAlliance is renowned for its commitment to foster global cooperation and promote mutually beneficial relationships between countries across the world with the aim to improve health and care provision. We will continue to support our EU and UK partners in the ongoing and future projects and initiatives in the transition phase and beyond.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached by the EU and UK on Christmas Eve explicitly gives the UK access to five EU funding programmes, namely Horizon Europe, the Euratom nuclear research programme, the ITER project to build the world’s first functioning nuclear fusion system, the earth monitoring project Copernicus, and EU satellite surveillance and tracking services. The UK government will continue to make a financial contribution to the EU budget in exchange for ongoing involvement in these programmes.

For what specifically concerns Horizon Europe, the UK will pay for the “Associate Country” status which was granted to the 16 non-EU countries formerly associated with Horizon 2020, including Switzerland and Israel, and that are in the process to sign new agreements for Horizon Europe..

There are some novelties on association in the Article 12 of the Horizon Europe draft regulations. The association is conditioned to the fulfilment of a set of criteria that define “like-minded” countries with strong STI base, willing to drive economic growth in the Union through innovation. Reciprocity implies the provision to open for the participation of EU entities to equivalent programmes of Associated Countries, where appropriate. Association fees continue to be calculated according to gross domestic product, but a dynamic system for financial contribution ensuring an automatic correction of significant imbalance between financial contributions and amounts received by entities from an Associated Country has been established. Moreover, the treaty states that the method for calculating the UK sum for Horizon Europe will be different from the method used in the other EU programmes.

The possibility of a partial association is also introduced making the case that part of the programme is excluded from the association agreement of a specific country. In particular, the part of Horizon Europe UK based innovative companies will be excluded from is the European Innovation Council Accelerator, a fund that invests in tech startups. The Accelerator offers companies grant funding of up to €2.5 million. Companies can also opt for equity investments of up to €15 million backed by European Investment Bank (EIB) money, which will not be longer an option for UK businesses as Brexit means that the UK automatically ends its membership in the EIB.

Nevertheless, the access to Horizon Europe funds is a much-needed good news for the academic, medical, business and public communities involved in the development of innovative medicines, treatments and solutions. However, the UK now loses influence over the programme and how the money is spent, because those decisions will only be made by EU countries.

Both sides can unilaterally terminate UK participation in Horizon Europe and the other programmes. According to joint declarations accompanying the agreement, UK officials will have the right to participate as observers in the board of the Joint Research Centre without voting rights. The UK will also keep its place in the European Research Infrastructure Consortium programme, which offers infrastructure funding for big research facilities across Europe.

On another note, according to the information available up to the date, the UK will not participate in other programmes contributing to the transformation of the health and care systems such as the Digital Europe programme or the EU4Health programme.

In addition, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement specifies that the conditions agreed for the five programmes above mentioned do not apply to any of the European Territorial Cooperation programmes, i.e. those programmes that are part of the European cohesion and structural policy (ERDF), namely Interreg, URBACT and ESPON. Each programme covers a defined geographical area and it supports transnational collaborations between European regions. The decision of the UK government to opt out of the future European Territorial Cooperation programmes had already been announced last July 2020 despite of their recognition from many UK stakeholders as important vehicles supporting cross border collaborations and interregional innovation projects that are not educational or research focused.

What will this imply practically in Interreg programmes? The UK government has prepared a list of FAQ that are downloadable from the Interreg Europe website. The UK will however stay in the present Interreg programmes until the end of the whole programming period which means that UK entities can conclude their ongoing projects and receive the corresponding funding and also apply for the calls open or to be opened soon under the programming period 2014-2020. This implies, for instance, that UK entities that have been participating in any of the 258 projects approved under the Interreg Europe programme could apply for the call that the Interreg Europe Monitoring Committee is right now studying to launch with the special aim to fund COVID-19 related additional activities. The aim of these activities shall be to exchange experiences on the way the COVID-19 crisis impacts the issue they address and to further improve their regional development policies to better face the current challenges.

Lastly, the UK has chosen not to be part of the Erasmus+ programme that supports education, training, youth and sport in Europe which, apart from covering the well known university exchange programme, is also funding several international collaborative projects such as strategic partnerships and sector-skills alliances that have seen a growing participation from the health and care sectors recently due to the increasingly recognised importance of investing in the upskilling and preparation of a future-proof health and care workforce.

In its place the UK government has published a statement regarding the Turing scheme, a new programme to replace the UK’s participation in Erasmus+. This will provide funding for placements and exchanges starting in September 2021, although experts anticipate that it won’t be a full substitute. The new scheme will be administered by the same partnership of British Council and Ecorys which has been delivering Erasmus+ in the UK for a number of years. Brexit does not affect the UK’s participation in the current (2014-2020) programmes. Under the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU, the UK will continue to participate fully in the current (2014-2020) Erasmus+ programme and ongoing projects will continue to receive EU funding for their full duration, including those where funding runs beyond 2020 and the end of the transition period.

The information contained in this blog may be subject to updates and modifications due to the ongoing negotiations to define the detailed terms of the Brexit deal.

Author: Valentina Tageo, International Projects Director


Sources:

Agreements reached between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the European Union, 31 December 2020, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/agreements-reached-between-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland-and-the-european-union

Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, laying down its rules for participation and dissemination, 29 September 2020, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/45766/st11251-re01-en20.pdf

The King’s Fund, Brexit and the end of the transition period: what does it mean for the health and care system?, 11 January 2021, https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/articles/brexit-end-of-transition-period-impact-health-care-system

Interreg Europe, FAQ for UK project partners about the post-transition period, 15 December 2020, https://www.interregeurope.eu/news-and-events/news/10762/faq-for-uk-project-partners-about-the-post-transition-period/?no_cache=1&cHash=6fd8d693b6c9f9957ac7976c6917e14e

European Commission, Association to Horizon Europe, EASTERN PARTNERSHIP PANEL ON RESEARCH & INNOVATION , 8th meeting, 10 December 2020, https://eu.eventscloud.com/file_uploads/82e5d711b8b1a97514b9aac4c4f7bfc9_ZARNAUSKAITERutaAssociationtoHERuta-PPT2.pdf

UK Government, New Turing scheme to support thousands of students to study and work abroad, Press Release, 26 December 2020, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-turing-scheme-to-support-thousands-of-students-to-study-and-work-abroad

UK Government, Working on EU-funded projects, https://www.ukri.org/our-work/collaborating-internationally/working-on-eu-funded-projects/

Erasmus+ UK National Agency, The Transition Period, https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/the-transition-period

Eanna Kelly, UK excluded from European Innovation Council fund, Brexit treaty confirms, Science Business, 26 December 2020, https://sciencebusiness.net/framework-programmes/news/uk-excluded-european-innovation-council-fund-brexit-treaty-confirms

Eanna Kelly, UK-EU research deal at a glance, Science Business, 30 December 2020, https://sciencebusiness.net/framework-programmes/news/uk-eu-research-deal-glance

Eanna Kelly, Experts find gaps in £100M UK scheme being set up to replace Erasmus+, 5 January 2021, https://sciencebusiness.net/news/experts-find-gaps-ps100m-uk-scheme-being-set-replace-erasmus Nicholas Wallace, Brexit deal secures U.K. access to European research funds, 28 December 2020, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/12/brexit-deal-secures-uk-access-european-research-funds

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