Britain is to rejoin the EU's science research programme, Horizon Europe.Louis Ashworth for Varsity

The UK government has today announced (07/09) that Britain is to rejoin the EU’s flagship £85bn science research programme, Horizon Europe.

Announcing the deal Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We have worked with our EU partners to make sure that this is the right deal for the UK, unlocking unparalleled research opportunities, and also the right deal for British taxpayers.”

The programme funds research projects of a wide variety from investigations into terminal diseases and the climate crisis to projects seeking to improve food and energy security.

Britain’s membership of Horizon was agreed back in 2020 as part of the post-Brexit trade deal. However, the membership was never ratified due to a row between the EU and the UK over Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

A standoff over how much the UK should pay into the programme every year ended with an agreement discussed at the European Commission’s highest level this week.

The University of Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Prentice, welcomed the announcement. “For the UK’s exceptional research community this is very good news which demonstrates a real commitment to this country remaining a global superpower in research and its application,” Professor Prentice said.

In June of this year, senior pro-vice chancellor Professor Andy Neely spoke of the importance of Cambridge University maintaining ties with Horizon. Professor Neely stated: “If you really want international collaboration you want to remove the barriers to that and make this as easy as possible.”

Also in June, Varsity spoke to pro-vice-chancellor for research, Professor Ferguson-Smith, who said that “Horizon funding has allowed researchers in Cambridge to deliver life-changing impact” in fields such as cancer research, carbon zero flight and vaccinations.

The “benefits of association are far greater than the initial sums of money involved,” he added.

In February, The Guardian revealed that though Cambridge University had received £433m over the seven years of the last European research funding programme, Horizon 2020, it received nothing in the first two years of the new Horizon Europe programme.


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This loss of research funding was linked to the departure of various leading academics, of which one example was the archaeologist, Dr Augusta McMahon. McMahon left Cambridge in August 2022 after 26 years, citing Brexit uncertainty as a significant factor in her decision.

McMahon told The Guardian: “I no longer thought the government would either associate [with Horizon Europe] or provide replacement funding.”

More broadly, the impacts of Brexit are still being felt at Cambridge. A Varsity investigation earlier in the year found that EU undergraduate enrolments had fallen by a fifth post-Brexit. Nationwide, EU student enrolments have more than halved.