Joint statement of European university groups on the future of Horizon Europe and restriction of access to quantum & space programmes

23 April 2021

Research-intensive university groups representing 77 universities across Europe have joined together to signal their determination to collaborate across borders to drive innovation and new discoveries. 

The joint statement, signed by the Russell Group, German U15, UDICE, LERU, and The Guild, also calls on the European Union not to restrict access for associated counties, such as UK, Switzerland and Israel, to parts of its multi-billion Horizon Europe research programme, including those covering space and quantum projects. 

In December, the UK Government and the European Commission agreed as part of the new trade deal between the two, that Britain would participate in Horizon Europe as an associated country, meaning full participation in the research programme on the same basis as Member States. However, a proposal in the European Commission’s work programme for Horizon Europe suggests it may potentially exclude associated countries, including Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Israel, from Horizon Europe’s quantum computing and space research projects.

Speaking on behalf of the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, Chief Executive Tim Bradshaw said: 

“Research and innovation are the keys to unlock a global post-Covid recovery but also to tackling the biggest problems facing society and spearheading cutting edge technology – without international collaboration that becomes so much harder.

“Our university groups which represent thousands of talented researchers across Europe have signalled their determination to continue working together to deliver the best experience for our students and staff while driving the innovations that can improve all of our lives.

“As we reiterate our commitment to cooperation and excellence in research, we urge the European Commission to do the same by not placing limitations on how the UK and other associated counties can use Horizon Europe, such as access to quantum and space research projects.”

The full text of the statement is as follows:

Joint Statement of Research-Intensive University Groups in Europe: The Future of Horizon Europe and restriction of access to quantum & space programmes

Date: April 23, 2021

 - The commitment and friendship between European research-intensive universities is as strong as ever. Our history of mutual collaboration and shared success provides the foundations for continued strong partnership and close collaboration.

 - The UK’s association to the Horizon Europe programme is a promising outcome, welcomed across Europe. As an associated country, the UK will participate in the programme on the same basis as EU Member States from the first calls, as confirmed by the European Commission here. This is a clear signal of the strength of that partnership and the enormous benefits it provides to research. We hope that the same positive signal can soon be given with regard to Switzerland’s association to Horizon Europe.

 - However, we are concerned about proposals to restrict the UK, Switzerland and potentially other countries’ access to certain parts of the programme, including quantum and space projects, after an agreement was reached in good faith. We urge the European Commission to reconsider its stance. 

 - The role of scientists and researchers in the fight back against the pandemic underlines the benefits of cross-border collaboration, and Horizon Europe will provide the framework for many more successful collaborations. Researchers based in all our universities are now ready to seize these opportunities, work together, and submit bids with confidence.

  - Similarly, universities across the UK and Europe are committed to working together to maintain student exchanges and enrich the student experience. We will continue exploring options with our respective Governments to support and smooth the vital flow of students and researchers between our countries.

Signatory parties: German U15, Russell Group, UDICE, LERU, The Guild

German U15, Russell Group, Udice, LERU, The Guild EU

Joint statement of research-intensive university groups in Europe: the future of Horizon Europe and restriction of access to quantum & space programmes

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