Building Bridges, Dismantling Barriers: UK Association to Horizon Europe

A commentary by ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno

Nearly three years after my November 2020 commentary on the UK’s departure from the EU, it remains imperative that scientific collaboration be considered a global endeavour rather than be weaponised and exploited as a mere bargaining chip. We are arguably more reliant on science systems now more than ever, as we face unrelenting waves of so-called polycrises: the looming threat of climate catastrophe, perennial war, and pandemics, just to name a few. Even in the absence of such globalised challenges, scientific collaboration is vital to the betterment of our societies. Research undertaken in the fields of oncology or biomedical engineering, for example, can significantly improve the quality of life across borders, classes, and generations.

As such, I have reaffirmed my commitment to the principle that scientific endeavour does not hold a passport; bounding such crucial ventures contained therein to the results of political negotiation restricts the breadth of its outcomes. ALLEA has continually invited policy actors to recall the impacts of their decisions on science systems, encouraging them to refrain from using research as a pawn in political spats.

It is both my pleasure and relief to see that these views are shared by the European Commission and the UK Government as evidenced in the agreement they reached on the association of the UK to Horizon Europe and Copernicus. This landmark moment marks a turning of the tide – the rupture sparked by Brexit will not be as encompassing as once feared. UK researchers will not be forced to work in isolation, and the EU will of course greatly benefit from their participation in turn, as these two counterparts can now continue or resume their long-standing partnerships with the security of funding.

As President of ALLEA, I applaud this watershed agreement which re-opens pathways for the meaningful scientific collaboration that constitutes a critical societal pillar. As a network that represents more than 50 academies in nearly 40 European countries – including five in the United Kingdom, who were quick to share their optimism at this long-awaited development – ALLEA will continue to defend the sovereignty of a research landscape that is underpinned by an open exchange of thought, expertise and resources. Now that the UK has been welcomed back to the fold, the real work can continue.

Antonio Loprieno

ALLEA President