UK researchers to receive ‘safety net’ after EU funding fails to materialize

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UK researchers left in limbo by EU funding that failed to materialize will receive a government ‘safety net’ this week, with ministers pledging to guarantee money owed to them by Brussels .

George Freeman, the Minister of Science, is expected to announce that Britain will provide funding to UK-based researchers and companies who have fallen short due to the EU’s delay in the country’s official entry into the Horizon Europe program, despite the acceptance of offers to finance individual projects.

The move comes after Mr Freeman said the UK had a “bold plan B” if Brussels blocked the UK from joining the EU’s key funding program for research and innovation.

Ministers believe that despite the acceptance of funding offers from UK individuals and companies, the EU is now delaying the UK’s official ‘association’ with the program in a deliberate attempt to create leverage in Northern Ireland talks.

As a result, some 69 research teams are currently working without guaranteed pay, Science | Business reported last month.

“We continued to risk not being paid because work is vital”

Anthony Gordon, professor of anesthesia and intensive care at Imperial College London, which is part of a consortium developing a new diagnostic test to check patients’ immune systems, told the publication: “It is a major problem. We continued to risk not getting paid because we believe the work is vital to do. “

A source from Whitehall said: ‘Britain has some of the best researchers and innovators in the world, and we need to contribute around £ 15 billion to Horizon.

“Unfortunately, the EU continues to drag its feet and jeopardize valuable research projects – to the detriment of scientists and researchers on both sides.

“The EU must continue to formalize it, and this safety net shows that the UK will continue to support its researchers regardless of the outcome.”

The UK is expected to contribute £ 2.1bn per year to the seven-year Horizon program to maintain UK scientists and researchers access to pan-European projects and funding.

It also gained access to the Copernicus Earth observation program, deemed vital to the UK space sector, while reaching a separate agreement on continued participation in Euratom’s nuclear research program.

However, entry has been blocked by the EU although other non-member states such as Norway are already granted formal association status.

Last month, The Telegraph revealed that the UK was making plans to pull out of research programs due to delays, with work underway on national alternatives.

Sources said the “safety net” to be unveiled by Freeman would provide funding to eligible researchers, companies and innovators who have successfully applied for funding from Horizon Europe but were unable to receive payments. due to the EU’s delay in allowing UK entry to the program.

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