Two reports published this month by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy shed some light on UK participation in the current and future “Framework” programmes – the multi-€bn collaborative R&D initiatives run by the European Commission.

The first is a review of the UK Participation in Horizon2020 [pdf]. Running, as its name suggests through to 2020, and therefore spanning the putative date when the UK leaves the EU, there has been a lot of uncertainty in the UK and elsewhere in Europe around the participation of UK companies and research groups. The report confirms:

…the Joint Report envisages that UK participants will be eligible to bid for Horizon 2020 funding for the duration of the programme, including after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

On this basis, the UK Government encourages UK participants to continue to bid for Horizon 2020 funding.

This is welcome news and leaves hundred of millions of Euros on the table for UK innovators to access.

European-funded research programmes have been running since Framework 1 in the mid 1980’s and continue to get bigger and better. Horizon2020 is part of “Framework 8”, and work on Framework 9 (due to start in 2021) is underway.

DBEIS has also published a position paper on UK participation in Framework 9. On UK participation, they state:

The terms of potential UK participation in future framework programmes, including the Ninth Framework Programme beginning in 2021, would need to be negotiated with the EU and its Member States, recognising the mutual benefits from past collaboration.

What make this different to many other areas of the negotiation is that there are several existing models for participation and the paper points out that a number of non-EU countries currently participate in Horizon 2020 either with associated country status or with automatic third country status, and all third countries without formal associate status can participate in specific parts of the programme, with some restrictions, usually by funding their own participation.

So there are grounds for optimism when it comes to long term participation, and in the short term our “window of certainty” just got a bit bigger.