<< Blog

UK and Switzerland towards accession to Horizon Europe

29th December 2020 at 10:33 am

The trade and cooperation agreement between the EU and the UK, announced on Christmas Eve and commonly known as the “Brexit deal”, clears up uncertainties regarding the UK’s post-Brexit access to Horizon Europe, the 9th EU research programme. Although the terms of association still need to be agreed upon, the agreement confirms both sides’ political will to continue a close cooperation on research and innovation.

However, UK-based SMEs will be left out of the European Innovation Council (EIC) fund, which guarantees equity investments within the EIC accelerator scheme. The UK also will not be participating in the Erasmus+ 2021-2027 Programme, the European Commission’s Programme for education, training, youth, and sport. NextGenerationEU, the EU’s COVID-19 recovery fund announced in July 2020, and SURE are two further instruments the UK will not be able to access.

In Switzerland, the parliament recently approved a CHF 6.1 billion (~EUR 5.6 billion) financial package for the country’s participation in Horizon Europe. The EU will define membership terms and conditions for non-EU countries’ access to the programme in the coming months. There is still uncertainty on the level of access for non-EU countries expected to conclude association agreements like Switzerland, Israel, Norway and now the UK.

Despite that, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation advises researchers in Switzerland to apply for the first Horizon Europe calls, as past association agreements were retroactively applicable. The same should apply to the UK and other non-EU countries that are currently negotiating association agreements.

If you wish to be updated on non-EU countries’ participation modalities, you can subscribe to our blog and choose the “Horizon Europe” topic.

Brexit – The price of uncertainty

In a paper recently published on Springer Nature’s Scientometrics, our colleague Marco Cavallaro studied UK participation in Horizon 2020 before and after the Brexit vote in 2016. He compares Horizon 2020 participation of UK universities and a sample of European universities with similar characteristics in terms of size, reputation and experience in EU research projects.

The results show a decrease of projects acquired and coordinated by UK universities after the Brexit vote to the benefit of their European peers. The negative effect of the Brexit vote is particularly striking when it comes to the numbers of collaborative projects coordinated and of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Horizon 2020’s mobility scheme.

There was also a noticeable decrease in the participation of UK-based SMEs in collaborative projects and EIC Accelerator grants. Uncertainties related to capital investment, EU market access, and UK-EU intellectual property rules have probably reduced their appeal to EU consortia as project partners for market uptake and to EIC Accelerator evaluators as grant recipients.

The coming years will tell us whether UK applicants will still be affected by Brexit and its consequences despite the (close to) full access to Horizon Europe.

EU-UK research collaboration and accelopment

At accelopment, we are currently supporting two UK coordinators (EURO SHOCK and MUSIQ) and a total of 21 UK project partners in more than a dozen Horizon 2020 initiatives. Our two British colleagues at accelopment Switzerland and our appreciation of black tea, scones and other British delights are additional motivations for us to continue supporting EU-UK collaborations in the future. Hence, we would like to encourage researchers and companies in the UK to enhance their participation and leadership in Horizon Europe.


Cavallaro, M., Lepori, B. Institutional barriers to participation in EU framework programs: contrasting the Swiss and UK cases. Scientometrics (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03810-0

Message of the Federal Council for the financing of the Swiss participation in the EU research and innovation programmes for the period 2021-2027 (Horizon package 2021-2027) (in German), 20 May 2020 (approved by the Swiss Parliament on 16 December 2020)

The draft EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, 24 December 2020