Scientists work at HydRegen, based at University of Oxford Begbroke Science Park, in Kidlington
The UK government's decision to rejoin the Horizon Europe programme has been welcomed by science associations like the Royal Society of Science and key industry players like Rolls Royce and Airbus UK. Reuters

The science fraternity of the UK is abuzz as Downing Street announced that the country is finally joining Horizon Europe and Copernicus programmes. Businesses and scientists highlight its positive impact on the job market and economic development.

Various premier organisations from the science community, like the Royal Society of Science, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences, have welcomed the new deal, saying that UK researchers will be at the heart of innovation again. They termed Horizon Europe as the "beacon of international programme" in a joint statement.

This comes at a time when stalwarts from the science fraternity, like Professor Brian Cox, spoke of immediate action to rejoin Horizon Europe for the advancement of science in the UK.

On September 6, Professor Brian Cox became one of the first reactors of the news as he retweeted Lord Peter Ricketts.

On Thursday, September 7, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology announced that the Rishi Sunak government signed new agreements with the EU to make it possible to join the Horizon Europe programme again.

With a budget of £82 billion (€95.5 billion), Horizon Europe is the world's largest research collaboration programme. It will fund scientific research and innovation in Europe till 2027, helping create jobs in the science and technology sector.

Through the Horizon Europe programme British scientists and science and technology companies can apply for funding. The UK government has ascertained that deals signed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have better financial terms which will protect the interest of the taxpayers in the UK.

UK researchers applying for grants through the Horizon Europe programme are assured of full support till 2027. The new deal offers better protection for British scientists and more value for money for the UK taxpayers, especially in case of delays from the EU.

Scientists from the country can be part of the EU governance of science programs, giving them a say over how collaborations happen. Earlier UK researchers couldn't be part of the governing body of such programs in the last three years. British scientists can also lead consortia in Horizon Europe projects.

The new deal has stand-alone features, which put the interest of Britain ahead of the EU, including forwarding the UK's fusion energy strategy over the Euratom programme. Britain will collaborate with European partners to create an alternative cutting-edge programme with funding of £650 million till 2027. The UK government is ensuring that the taxpayers' money is spent well to advance the prospects of the energy sector through this.

New agreements to protect the interest of UK researchers and taxpayers

Speaking about the matter Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: the new terms provide breathing space to UK researchers and also prevent the misuse of taxpayers' money as it won't be used to cover the time when the scientists were excluded from the Horizon Europe programme, since 2021.

Sunak underlined how British scientists applying to the programme will be compensated by the EU in the first few years of association. The UK will recover from the effects of not being part of the deal for the last two years. The PM also added that UK researchers will be compensated if they are paid less than the UK's investment in the programme.

The UK Science and Innovation Secretary Michelle Donelan termed it as an essential step towards becoming a "science and tech superpower" by 2030.

Dame Sally Mapstone, the President of University UK welcomed the move, saying it will rejuvenate the entire research community of Britain as it removes obstacles from their life.

Mapstone underlined how crucial Horizon Europe is for scientific collaboration as it helped research in various fields, like ovarian cancer detection and clean energy networks, for over 30 years.

The Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, Michelle Mitchell, said the deal is in the best interest of cancer patients as three-quarters of cancer researchers are affected by a lack of funding from the EU in the last two years.

The Chief Scientific Adviser of the UK government, Dame Professor Angela McLean, said Horizon Europe will secure Britain's status as a science and technology superpower as international collaboration helps the science ecosystem to flourish.

The Chief Executive Officer of London Higher, Dr Diana Beech, said this will renew hope and optimism in the UK higher education sector as universities and colleges across the country get better opportunities for collaboration.

The Vice President of the Academy of Medical Sciences Professor, Paul Stewart, said that by joining the Horizon Europe programme, Britain has sent the signal that it is open for business and remains a prime destination for medical research.

The EU deal will better space and climate research in the UK

Along with Horizon Europe, Britain also joined the Copernicus European Earth Observation programme, which will make critical climate data available to the country. Through this, the UK could get better flood and fire warnings. Furthermore, it also enables UK SMEs and researchers to bid for contracts in the climate change and weather technology field.

The UK Space trade body chair John Hanley highlighted the track record of Horizon Europe and the Copernicus programmes in creating jobs and steering the economic growth of the UK.

Hanley hoped that Britain's national Earth Observation initiatives would leverage this deal and become a leader in global EO programmes.

The Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Dr Paul Bate, said that the Copernicus programme will help the UK space sector to develop future space missions.

UK SMEs to gain from the Horizon Europe and Copernicus rejoining

The UK government has underlined that the Horizon Europe programme will help UK SMEs and research institutions in collaborating with the rest of the world as countries like Canada, New Zealand, Korea, Israel and Norway are considering joining it. Through this program, UK SMEs can lead global work in Artificial Intelligence (AI) usage in healthcare, climate change, etc.

About 70 per cent of the Horizon Europe budget is reserved for SMEs who can provide effective solutions to problems faced by the EU, including climate change.

The Chief Technology Officer of Rolls Royce, Grazia Vittadini, underlined Horizon Europe's role in developing aerospace technology which shaped Rolls Royce's technological advancement.

Vittadini described the UK's return to the programme as a step towards leveraging partnerships in the field and driving innovation and competition.

Airbus UK Chairman John Harrison highlighted how Airbus gained from many technologies emerging from the Copernicus programme, including the Sentinel 5P satellite in Stevenage.