Bringing Collaboration to the Horizon Once More

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, January 2024, Volume 48, Issue 1

UK scientists are once again able to participate in the Horizon European research programme thanks to a deal struck in 2023.

A key political decision from 2023 that will undoubtedly impact the scientific communities of both the United Kingdom and European Union has been the allowance of the UK to re-enter the Horizon Europe research programme (see Sidebar) (1). After voting to depart from the EU in 2016 and finally severing from the union in 2020, the UK has been excluded from full membership of certain EU projects, such as Horizon Europe. However, in March 2023, after the implementation of the Windsor framework (2,3), discussions commenced between the regions with the aim of getting the UK reinstated into the Horizon Europe research programme (4).

On 7 Sep. 2023, the UK and EU agreed upon a new bespoke deal, allowing the UK to participate in the Horizon Europe programme as well as the EU’s Earth observation programme, Copernicus (5,6). UK scientists were able to apply for grants and could bid to participate in projects from the date of the deal announcement (7 Sep. 2023), and from 1 Jan. 2024 are able to formally participate in Horizon Europe on par with EU counterparts with access to funding (6).

“The EU and UK are key strategic partners and allies, and [this] agreement proves that point. We will continue to be at the forefront of global science and research,” specified Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission (EC) in a press release about the deal (6).

A cause for celebration

Many in the scientific research communities of both the UK and Europe have been grateful to see this deal finalized. “[The] announcement on the UK’s association to Horizon Europe and Copernicus is a cause for celebration on both sides of the channel,” said Dr. Michael Spence, president and provost of University College London, in a news release (7). “Association to Horizon Europe will enable research, which makes a positive difference to people’s lives, supporting vital research and innovation networks and strengthening the UK’s position as an attractive destination for talent.”

The deal is a particular boon to those in the UK’s scientific community who were facing uncertainty due to limited funding opportunities for research. “The lack of agreement to allow the UK to continue to play a full role in the EU Horizon funding programme severely threatened [UK science] continued success,” explained Professor Liam Smeeth, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in a news release (8). “My concern was particularly for the long term. With no new partnerships and collaborations being formed, there was a very real risk of the UK becoming isolated and insular.”


Mayer Schreiber, CEO of Discovery Park, emphasized the importance of collaboration in the science community. “Collaboration is vital to successful science and innovation and the funding and partnership opportunities the programme offers will bring considerable benefits to the UK and Europe,” he said in a press release (9).

What’s next?

Now that the UK is fully reinstated into the Horizon Europe programme, reforging research relationships that have been lost in the interim will be vital. According to Thomas Jørgensen, director for Policy Coordination and Foresight at the European University Association, trying to get the level of cooperation back to where it was prior to the UK’s removal from the programme will be the biggest challenge (10).

Adding to this challenge will be issues such as the UK and EU’s divergence in regulations and standards, such as the rules around digital platforms, and the European view on certain sensitive subjects, such as the development and sharing of strategically important technologies, asserted Jørgensen (10).

However, on a positive note, the hiatus from the programme has finally come to an end, and UK-based researchers are once again able to receive funding and lead research projects involving multinational consortia. “Joining the Horizon Europe programme is a huge win for the scientific research community, who have been pushing for resolution over the past few years,” specified Janet Valentine, executive director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, in a response to the deal. “UK innovation and research depends on international collaborations, which are crucial for driving advancements in all areas of science, including the discovery and early development of new medicines and vaccines. The UK accession to Horizon enables the two sides to reinvigorate their longstanding partnership in R&D, and directly contributes to UK growth and competitiveness in the life sciences sector by making the UK an attractive destination for talented researchers” (11).


1. Thomas, F. New Deal on the Horizon. Pharm. Tech. Eur. 2023 35 (7) 6.
2. UK Gov. The Windsor Framework. Policy Paper, 27 Feb. 2023.
3. European Commission. Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland: The Windsor Framework. (accessed 10 Jan. 2024).
4. Gallardo, C. Britain and EU Agree Draft Horizon Deal. Politico, 5 July 2023.
5. UK Gov. UK Joins Horizon Europe Under a New Bespoke Deal., Press release, 7 Sep. 2023.
6. European Commission. EU-UK Relations: Commission and UK Reach Political Agreement on UK Participation in Horizon Europe and Copernicus., Press Release, 7 Sep. 2023.
7. UCL. Rejoining Horizon Europe is a ‘Cause for Celebration’. News Release, 7 Sep. 2023.
8. LSHTM. Expert Comment—UK Rejoins Horizon Programme. News Release, 8 Sep. 2023.
9. Discovery Park. Discovery Park Welcomes Decision to Re-Join EU Horizon Science Programme., 7 Sep. 2023.
10. Jørgensen, T. So the UK is in Horizon Europe—Now What? Research Professional News, 19 Sep. 2023.
11. ABPI. ABPI Response: UK Joins Horizon Europe. News Release, 7 Sep. 2023.

About the authors

Felicity Thomas is the European/senior editor, and Jill Murphy was the former editor for Pharmaceutical Technology Group

Article details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 36, No. 1
January 2024
Pages: 32–33


When referring to this article, please cite it as Thomas, F.; Murphy, J. Bringing Collaboration to the Horizon Once More. Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 2024 36 (1) 32–33.