Will UK science’s ‘lost’ £1.6 billion ever come back?

Imperial College London This institution was among the ones that received the greatest funding from the EU’s previous research scheme. Horizon 2020.CreditiStock Editorial/Getty

The UK Department For Business, Energy And Industrial Strategy is quietly returning £1.6 billion (US$1.9 billion) in funding to the Treasury This money was earmarked to be used for research collaborations. European Union in its 2022–23 budget. But The UK government has assured that no money was lost to science.

The government had set aside £2.35 billion to fund the United Kingdom’s contributions to the Horizon Europe research-funding scheme and Euratom The ITER Fusion Research Project is funded by the nuclear-energy organisation France. But because the country’s participation in those programmes has still not been confirmed, part of that money went unspent and was surrendered back to the Treasury. The On page 300, clawback was explained. Technical accounting documents.

The scientific community swiftly condemned what appeared to be the loss of promised funding for research and development (R&D), after repeated assurances by the government that UK researchers would not lose out if the country failed to reach an agreement on the Horizon Europe programme.

Community Concerns

The London-based Campaign For Science And Engineering (CaSE), highlighted the issue for the first time on 21 February. “The government has repeatedly stated that R&D budgets would be protected and that the money allocated for association to Horizon Europe would be spent on R&D,” Sarah Main, CaSE’s executive director, in a statement. “The government’s reversal of this position with today’s withdrawal of £1.6bn for R&D undermines the Prime Minister’s assertions about the importance of science and innovation to the UK’s future and the creation, only this month, of a new department to pursue this agenda.”

The Leaders of many scientific organizations, including the UK Royal Society And the Institute This is Physics In LondonOthers expressed their concern about the apparent loss.

But A spokesperson for the government said Nature that the money was not lost, and that the commitment to increasing public R&D investment to £20 billion per year by 2024–25 remains in place. “Funding remains available to finalize association with EU programmes, but we have been clear that we will only pay for the periods of association. In the event we do not associate, UK researchers and businesses will receive at least as much money as they would have done from Horizon over the Spending Review period,” He said.

Even if the negotiations had been successful, it is unlikely that UK researchers would have received all of those £2.35 billion from Horizon Europe Last year. The Sum was an initial payment to join. However, the returns from it would be spread over several years as researchers win grants.

Brexit guarantee

After Brexit went into effect, Horizon Europe Acceptance of grant applications from UK-based researchers was continued, but EU funding was subject to the successful negotiation for associated-country status. The Horizon Europe guarantee — under which the UK government provides funding to researchers whose applications have been approved by Horizon EuropeBut, who were unable to obtain funding while the United Kingdom is negotiating — is still in place until at least the end of March.

To date, the government has provided £750 million via UKRI through the guarantee, the spokesperson says, and £684 million of direct funding to UK science, fusion and Earth observation. The He says that the government will soon publish plans for alternative programs, which will be implemented if necessary.

James WilsdonWho studies science policy? University College LondonAccording to, the underspend could partly be due to the fact that less UK academics apply to universities. Horizon Europe Because of the uncertainty surrounding it United Kingdom’s relationship to the EU. As In the end, spending on the UK Guarantee and related measures was less than the amount that the government had expected to have to pay. Horizon Europe If it had joined.

Downward spiral

“Even with the guarantee in place, the volume of UK applications continues to drop,” Wilsdon says. “It’s a vicious downward spiral, where uncertainty breeds declining engagement, which then further decreases the theoretical drawdown of this money through the UK guarantee or ultimately through reconnection through an association agreement.”

Even If the money is not available, it can be used to support research by either association with Horizon Europe Or, through the yet to be announced alternative, the failure of researchers to clearly communicate this reinforces their worst fears. Wilsdon.

Kieron FlanaganHe studies science policy and technology at the University This is Manchester, UK, says the confusion will do little to build confidence in the government’s plans for science. “It looks absolutely awful and is a terrible own goal for a government attempting to put science and technology at the centre of its strategy for growth,” He said.

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