By Daniela Bolle, European Funding Manager

Colleagues who attended the recent visit left feeling a little more positive about the future of UK research in Europe. As Blazej Thomas, our UKRO European Advisor explained, statements from the UK Government and the European Commission provide some reassurance that UK legal entities will be able to continue benefitting from European funding. Not only are projects we apply* for while a EU Member State (MS) underwritten by the UK Treasury for their duration, once the UK ceases to be a MS, we can still apply either as an Associated Country (no requirement of free movement of people, but of a monetary contribution to the EU programme) or as a Third Country. The European Commission in turn is briefing evaluators to assess proposals on scientific merit irrespective of participant countries.

*This is specific to projects under Horizon 2020. For Structural Funds, project contracts have to be signed while the UK is a Member State to be underwritten by the UK Treasury.

Blazej reported that there had been cases where applicant teams had asked UK partners to leave the consortium or to pass the consortium lead to another partner. The UK Government through BEIS is still collecting evidence of discrimination against UK partners by email. UKRO have experienced a pickup in enquiries back to pre-referendum levels, indicating that UK partners have been able to reassure their collaborators now that guarantees are in place from UK Government.

With the Horizon 2020 Interim Evaluation currently open, the European Commission’s preference for the next Horizon work programme is for a 3 year programme: 2018 – 2020. It will be expected to make a contribution to addressing the economic and migration crisis and will be influenced by the EU’s Research & Innovation priorities defined by Commissioner Moedas: Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the world.

Open to the world: As a global leader in science, the EU will aim to develop more partnerships between regions and countries and continue its focus on science diplomacy and global collaboration. Initiatives such as PRIMA (water/food in the Mediterranean), South Atlantic research strategy, EU-LAC common research area will be joined by new ones for 2017:

The recently announced Food Research Area aims to scale-up Research & Innovation for food and nutrition security in Europe within a global context. Its flagship initiative “Food 2030” has the priorities of nutrition for sustainable and healthy diets, smart and environmentally sustainable food systems in the context of climate change, circularity and resource efficient food systems, and innovation and empowerment of communities. Food 2030 will have a direct impact on H2020 calls.

The International Bio-economy Forum, to be established next year, aims to initiate a dialogue with major international partners on how Research & Innovation can benefit the bioeconomy and includes working groups on plant health (USA), forestry (Canada), and precision agriculture (New Zealand), the biome and possibly biofuels (Brazil).

The All Atlantic Research Alliance – Brazil and South Africa, have recently joined the EU, USA, Canada Transatlantic Research Alliance – aims to deliver the South Atlantic Ocean strategy, which is set to involve all relevant countries. 2018-2020 calls will focus on supporting cooperation with these countries.

Open Innovation: To address Europe’s “lack of disruptive market-creating innovation”, Moedas is set to establish a European Innovation Council (EIC).

Open Science: From 2017 research data will be open by default in H2020 with the option to opt out for reasons of privacy, IPR, or a risk to the project’s main objective.