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Cambridge Workshops

Coordinating Horizon 2020 Projects, 5 May 2019

2 Day - Finance in Horizon 2020, 18 & 19 June 2019

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Brexit and Horizon 2020


H2020: the Brexit story so far

April 2019

Decline and Fall?

The table below shows the number and value of H2020 grants in total and those allocated to the UK, divided into the years when the grant is due to start. They show a clear reduction in the quantity and value of UK grants following the UK referendum at the end of June 2016. AprilTbl2f

The number of grants starting in 2014 is small relative to other years. Here we combine the three years from 2014 to 2016 to provide a baseline for comparison. The baseline includes all of 2016, because most of the related proposals would have been prepared and evaluated eight months earlier, before the UK referendum was held at the end of June 2018. 

The data shows the UK share of EC funding and of participations, where participation means the involvement of a specific organisation in a specific project. The change from the baseline to 2019 is a reduction of 22.8% in funding and of 18.6% in participations.

Comparing only the highest and lowest shares per year (excluding 2014) produces corresponding reductions of 24.1% and 19.4%. While countries experience changes in their shares, the maximum other than the UK is 14% for countries with a large participation in H2020. The table below provides this data for the five countries which usually are the major recipients of H2020 funding.



Of course, the data does not explain the reasons for the decline in UK participation. One obvious possibility is that researchers, in the UK and elsewhere, feel uncertainty about the future. Perhaps they do not believe the UK government’s undertaking to provide financial support for UK participants in any project selected for EC funding if the EU withdraws its support on the UK’s departure from the EU (the budget and administration are in place to do this). Another possibility is they don’t believe the EC would allow a UK organisation to coordinate a project after departure (the grant agreement contains terms to handle this, so yes, it is possible).


So our final set of statistics are about coordinators. These are from the same source as before, but we have removed all projects which are funding a single organisation. This means most ERC grants, SME grants and individual fellowships under Marie Sklodowska-Curie, which represent about one third of all H2020 projects (the EC data identifies sole project participants as coordinators in its databases).

As before, the numbers for 2014 are too small to provide guidance. But if we combine the years 2014-2016, the UK provided 13.8% of coordinators, above its share of participations in that period. Then decline sets in, with an especially dramatic reduction in 2019. Compared with the 2014-16 average, it amounts to a 33.4% reduction, suggesting that scepticism about coordinating is greater than that about participating.

August 2018

No Brexit changes but…

While there has been little obvious progress on the main issues which separate the UK and the rest of the EU – trade and movement of people – both sides have published plans for the possibility that negotiations fail. Here’s the UK update for H2020.

In 2016, UK government guaranteed funding for UK organisations included in proposals submitted to H2020 before the UK departed from the EU if H2020 selected the proposal for funding.

Recently, this guarantee has been extended to include successful proposals submitted up to the end of the year 2020 for cases where UK is able to participate as a third country. This means proposals where a consortium is required to carry out the work: most of Societal Challenges and Enabling & Industrial Technologies, and parts of Excellent Science.

UK government is now establishing a register of UK organisations which now or in the next few months will be entitled to claim against this guarantee. If negotiations fail, organisations applying to H2020 after the March 2019 deadline will use the same register so they can claim UK funding for their participation.

2 March 2018

The UK’s Prime Minister again confirmed the UK’s commitment to establish an agreement with the EU in science and innovation, as part of a future relationship with the EU. Such an agreement would enable the UK to participate in EU research programmes after the end of H2020.

A few days later, on March 13th 2018, the UK Office of Budget Responsibility published its Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which quantified contributions to the EU budget agreed last December. Net contributions to the EU budget, after deducting UK receipts from EU programmes including H2020, are forecast to be €18.5 billion over 2019 and 2020 and a further €20.2 billion over 2021-2028, to cover EU spending commitments agreed during 2014-2020.

EU and UK agreement to the methods used to calculate the UK’s financial contribution over this period were published by the EU on 19th March 2018. While the document, the Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, is – as its title says - a draft, the relevant passages are highlighted in green, showing that the calculation methods are agreed.

December 2017 Brexit agreement

The agreement reached between the EU and the UK in December 2017 includes provisions to support UK participation in H2020 until the end of the programme and completion of all projects.

To achieve this, the UK will contribute to the EU annual budgets for the years 2019 and 2020 as if it had remained in the EU. It will also contribute its share of the financing of the budgetary commitments outstanding at 31 December 2020. The UK also agreed that the UK and UK beneficiaries will respect all relevant EU legal provisions relating to participation in H2020.

So eligibility to apply to participate in EU programmes and EU funding for UK participants and projects will be unaffected by the UK’s withdrawal from the Union for the entire lifetime of such projects.

22 September 2017

On 22 September 2017, the UK Prime Minister suggested in a speech that, after the UK formally leaves the EU on 29th March 2019, there should be a two year transition period, during which existing EU rules would apply in the UK. This means that existing trade and immigration rules would remain largely unchanged in this period. The Prime Minister also said the UK would honour the financial commitments it made during the period of its membership of the EU. No number was placed on this commitment, but popular rumour is that it would amount to €20 billion over two years. This is similar to two times the UK’s average annual contribution to the EU budget in recent years, minus the amounts UK government receives from the EU for agriculture and regional development.

The Prime Minister also suggested that the UK would like to continue “to take part in those specific policies and programmes which are greatly to the UK and the EU’s joint advantage, such as those that promote science, education and culture – and those that promote our mutual security”, and contribute to the cost of these EU programmes.

6 September 2017

On 6 September 2017, the UK government published a document on “Collaboration on science and innovation”, one of 14 papers it has produced to support the Brexit negotiation between the EU and the UK. The paper includes examples of successful research collaboration between the UK and other EU Member States, and of the common problems we all share which would benefit from further research collaboration.

Like the other papers in the series, the one on science lacks concrete detail. But it does state clearly that the UK would like to negotiate continuing participation in the EU’s Research and Innovation Framework Programme, of which H2020 is the current version, after its departure from the EU. The same applies to EU programmes for space, nuclear and defence R&D.


UK organisations are guaranteed funding for successful proposals submitted to H2020 before the UK leaves the EU. If a transition period is agreed, the guarantee will run to the end of H2020. And if the UK government and the EU can overcome their differences, UK participation in the successor to H2020 is possible.

and just to clarify....

European Court of Justice

Above we described how UK organisations could – with financial support from the UK government – continue to participate in H2020 consortium projects after the UK exits from the EU. Some observers have suggested this will not be possible because the UK government wishes to avoid the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

In fact, this issue has no impact on continuing participation of UK organisations in H2020. This is because UK organisations are free to decide which law applies to each of their agreements and which courts will adjudicate in case of a dispute. In the commercial sphere, UK companies often sign agreements with American companies under US law and jurisdiction. The same freedom applies to all types of UK organisations.

18 July 2017

In July 2017, the UK government’s minister for Universities and Science added detail to the funding guarantee given in August 2016. First, he confirmed that the guarantee of funding covered the years after Brexit for projects funded as a result of proposals submitted before that event. Then he added that the underwriting will also apply, not only to schemes directly administered by the Commission, but also to others that award Horizon 2020 funding. This would include, for example, awards made by Joint Technology Initiatives, Public-public Partnerships, COFUND projects and FET Flagships. It would also include schemes where the application has two stages as long as the first stage application is submitted before the UK leaves the EU.

17 January 2017

In January 2017, the UK Prime Minister presented her objectives concerning the EU. As usual, the main topics were immigration and access to the single market. But her speech also addressed science and innovation, as one of her twelve objectives. The key paragraph says “We will also welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives”. An earlier paragraph suggested that the UK would be willing to contribute to the EU budget of some specific European programmes. Together these statements suggest a willingness for the UK to continue to participate in H2020 and its successors after the country’s departure from the EU.

12 August 2016

In August 2016, the UK government announced that UK participation in H2020 will continue to be funded after the UK leaves the EU, for proposals selected for funding up to that time. The UK Finance Ministry – the Treasury – said that it would underwrite the payment of such grants. This includes funding for projects scheduled to continue after the UK’s departure from the EU. So this means that UK participants will be funded for all proposals submitted before 29th March 2019 which are selected for funding. Some of the projects funded on this basis are likely to begin as late as the start of 2020 and continue to 2024.

Whether the payments to UK organisations will be made by the EU or UK government remains to be negotiated. But – contrary to the views of some commentators – this will have no effect on UK organisations who are coordinating projects. The model grant agreement has for some years included terms to address the case of coordinators (and beneficiaries) who are not receiving EU funding. These terms were used by Swiss coordinators who were excluded from H2020 funding from 2014 to 2016 except in the “Excellent Science” part of the programme.



Brexit updates from the Department for Exiting European Union



UK Participation in Horizon 2020: UK Government overview with Q & A



Chancellor Philip Hammond guarantees EU funding beyond date UK leaves the EU


Guardian News

Up to date news on research funding


 Brexit Horizon 2020 H2020

UK participation in Horizon 2020: UK government overview with Q&A