Brexit ‘may bar UK scientists from €100bn EU research fund’

The Guardian is reporting that one of Britain’s leading researchers has warned of a “major blow” to national science if ministers cannot secure access to a massive research programme that is being drawn up by the EU.

The Horizon Europe programme will fund €100bn in research projects, making it one of the largest science funds in the world. British researchers will be locked out unless the government negotiates an access deal in the coming months.

Sir Paul Nurse, the Nobel prize-winning director of the Francis Crick Institute, in London, said the seven-year programme was so important that exclusion would see the UK drop out of the top tier of research nations.

“There are three major power blocs in science in the world: Europe, the US and China. The UK has a lead role in Europe and will lose that world leadership in science unless we remain part of the European system,” Nurse told the Guardian. “If scientists in the UK couldn’t go for European grants, UK science would undoubtedly suffer.”

Britain currently pays about £1bn into Europe’s Horizon 2020 programme and receives £1.5bn back in scientific research grants. More than a dozen non-member states have negotiated full access to the programme as “associated countries”, but involvement in its successor, Horizon Europe, which starts in January 2021, is still being thrashed out. “The process for non-member states will be decided in the coming months so we need to get this right to avoid being locked out,” Nurse said.

Being part of EU research programmes was not just about money, Nurse added. “Diversity and international collaboration are some of the great strengths of modern science and European science programmes are among the best in the world for bringing people with different perspectives together to address global challenges,” he said.

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