Update on Horizon 2020 engagement

In recent weeks, there has been a certain amount of confusion relating to a statement made by the European Commission on British applicants’ engagement in the Horizon 2020 funding programme. Scotland Europa would like to shed some light on this and highlight a relevant development in the Brexit negotiations. 

On 8 December, EU and UK negotiators agreed a deal which states that “the UK will contribute to, and participate in, the implementation of the Union annual budgets for the years 2019 and 2020 as if it had remained in the Union…the UK will continue to participate in the Union programmes financed by the MFF 2014-2020 [the EU long-term budget] until their closure…entities located in the UK will be entitled to participate in such programmes.” The UK and UK beneficiaries would be expected to respect EU legal provisions, including on co-financing. More guidance on what this means in practice may be available in the coming weeks.

What did the European Commission say about British applicants? “Please note that until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, when it comes to rights and obligations; this includes the eligibility of UK legal entities to fully participate and receive funding in Horizon 2020 actions. Please be aware however that the eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to be eligible to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project on the basis of Article 50 of the grant agreement.” 

The text above is a simple clarification of the status of UK organisations following the vote last June. Clearly, organisations in the UK continue to be eligible to take part in projects funded by Horizon 2020, and consortia should continue to incorporate UK entities into their projects.

This clarification was published prior to the 8 December deal between EU and UK negotiators, and could now be changed. 

Is my committed grant going to be affected? BEIS states that: “even if UK partners cannot continue to receive funding from the European Commission because the UK has become a third country [i.e. if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement on Horizon 2020 participation], the UK Government has guaranteed funding for successful bids submitted by UK participants before departure, including those that are successful afterwards.” The government “will work with the Commission to ensure payment when funds are awarded.” This means that the UK government has committed to provide funding to ensure that UK partner can continue to participate in a project, regardless of whether that partner is eligible to continue to receive EU funding. 

Again, the text agreed by UK and EU negotiators on 8 December states that the UK will continue to participate in the 2014-2020 programmes financed by the EU, and more guidance on what this means in practice for UK organisations is expected.  

Will including British participants affect my chances of success? In a recent statement at the Royal Society of Edinburgh MacCormick European Lecture on the 16 October 2017, European Research and Innovation Commissioner Carlos Moedas stated:  "Horizon 2020 projects will continue to be evaluated based on merit and not on nationality. So, I urge the European scientific community to continue to choose their project partners on the basis of excellence." He urged Scottish scientists and organisations to “Please keep taking part [in Horizon 2020]. Keep collaborating with your European partners.” 

The UK and Scotland possess research infrastructure that is both unique to the European and is recognised globally as world-class. The freedom to exchange ideas internationally and values of ‘Open science, open innovation and openness to the world’ as stated by Commissioner Moedas, are likely to be enshrined in FP9, the next R&I framework programme. 

What happens next? Leaders are expected to agree to progress to the second stage of Brexit negotiations at the European Council Summit on 14-15 December 2017. Scotland Europa will monitor this and any guidance on the practical implications of the agreement on participation in EU programmes.  


To date, Scotland has been hugely successful in the R&I programme, securing over €440.5 million from Horizon 2020, representing 1.65% of the total allocated Horizon 2020 budget, and 11.1% of the total funding awarded to UK organisations. Scottish businesses have secured over €74 million of the Horizon 2020 funding awarded to Scotland to date, with SMEs accounting for almost €57 million of this. 

Scotland Europa continues to support Scottish organisations to maximise EU opportunities, including by accessing EU funding and our intentions are to stay involved in the debate surrounding the next framework programmes. As stated by Scottish Government Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe Michael Russell, during Scotland Europa’s EU cooperation and Innovation event on the 29th September 2017:

“[The] ability for us to forge new, and strengthen existing partnerships, networks and alliances across Europe that have been notably assisted by Scotland’s continued proactive participation in these programmes and projects. It therefore remains important for Scotland to maintain presence and participation in the current EU cooperation programmes both now and after exit from the EU. We must be mindful that Scotland also provides meaningful and recognised contributions at the programme level, to improve policies on economic, social and territorial cohesion that strengthen the foundations of EU connectivity and cooperation.” 


Stephanie Abrahams