With Brexit what will the future look like for UK organisations participating in EU R&D projects. It will be at least 2 years, probably longer, before the details of Brexit are finalised. In the mean time UK organisations can still apply for EU funding as normal. For the longer term impact we can look to Switzerland for inspiration and for anticipated developments.
The Swiss currently have partial association with H2020. In practice this means they can fully participate in some program e.g:-
- Enabling and Industrial Technologies e.g your classic multi-partner ICT projects called in work programmes steered by Photonics 21. Swiss organisations can participate, as so called 3rd countries, but are funded direct from Swiss authorities and don’t count toward the minimum number of participants. They are in effect bonus partners, with the benefits that adding a Swiss partner to a project doesn’t dilute the overall budget, but adds to the funding pot.
- Excellence in Science/ EU research Council. Switzerland pays into EU for participation and funds flow to successful applicants from EU commission just as other EU countries. However, this is likely to change in the future and move to Swiss partners being funded locally as in Enabling tech above.
- Innovation in SMEs and access to risk finance. The Swiss are not able to participate in these programs ie. no Open Disruption Innovation SME instrument or Fast track to innovation (TBC).
For the UK a similar mixed model is likely. The exact balance being determined by availability of UK funds (cf ERANET+), perceptions of benefits to all and broader policies e.g. on immigration (the lack of Swiss ratification of a protocol on freedom of movement directly impacted their H2020 association status). For more discussion on Swiss relationship to H2020.
The timelines of Brexit are also approximately aligned to the end of H2020. Therefore the main impact of Brexit will be on UK participation in whatever follows H2020, with current trends indicating a focus on digitising industry in the broadest sense.
Given that participation is most likely to continue to be possible, the UK should continue to fully participate in bodies such as Photonics21 that help steer direction of future collaborative projects across Europe. Indeed being an independently supported bonus partner could be positively beneficial to many consortia, where UK (or Swiss) orgs can provide significant expertise, provided there is sufficient funding from the UK
Many thanks to Swiss Photonics for guidance on above. The PLG will continue to input into and monitor developments closely with further commentary in the near future.