EU losing billions of UK's cash as Britain ready to fund 'Bold Plan B' – Express

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The EU is losing out on bags of cash that Britain was supposed to give the bloc so it could take part in its £80billion flagship innovation programme – but Science Minister George Freeman told the UK could use that money to fund a “better” alternative. As part of the 2020 post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the UK negotiated to take part in Horizon Europe. This is the bloc’s major science programme which would have let British researchers access prestigious EU grants and collaborate with European researchers on crucial projects –from quantum computing to AI to climate change research.
The UK set aside £15billion to take part, which it was going to hand Brussels so it could join. But amid a furious Brexit row, the EU told Britain it cannot take part until the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute is smoothed over. Two years on and the issue remains unresolved, leaving hundreds of British scientists who were promised grants in limbo. Now, the minister has warned “time is running out”.
Mr Freeman told for every year the UK doesn’t join, the more British cash the EU is losing out on.
He said: “We have effectively been sitting on our Horizon contribution waiting for the phone to ring. And the message to Europe is, we are now going to start spending and investing that money…in other ways for international research.
“It is an eight-year programme, we had money aside and two years have been wasted. They [the EU] have lost the money that we would have put in and got back…That is now up for grabs for us to spend in other areas. You will start to see us roll it out.”
 Freeman, VDL and SunakScientists collaborating Scotland’s richest brothers have said that “enough is enough” with Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP’s obsession with independence, claiming that she is wasting Scottish taxpayers’ money.
James and Sandy Easdale, who entered the Sunday Times rich list this year, have warned that the push for another referendum is diverting much-needed resources from public services.
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To account for the first four years of the programme, the Treasury ringfenced £6.9billion to foot the bill for participating in Horizon Europe and other European Union science programmes, or to fund any domestic alternative, until 2024–25.
This week, the Financial Times reported Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ordered accelerated work on a “proper blueprint” for Mr Freeman’s “Bold Plan B” to Horizon, which the minister already appears to be making headway on.
For instance, the Government this week announced an extension to the support provided to UK Horizon Europe applicants, originally launched in November 2021, who were supposed to receive EU grants via the programme.
Part of Mr Freeman’s “Plan B” will involve launching very strong fellowships to make up for what its researchers could miss out on due to being booted out of the European programme.
The minister noted one of the main benefits of the Horizon programme, and one of the main reasons why he is “not shutting the door” on association to the EU scheme, is due to the European Research Council’s (ERC) fellowship awarded to successful applicants, which is “very prestigious” and is a “big badge of honour” for researchers.
READ MORE: Russia and China sign agreement to build scientific base on the MoonSunakThe UK currently has around 120 ERC fellow professors in Britain with the EU warning they will need to move to an EU or Horizon associated country to keep their ERC fellowships.
Mr Freeman said: “We will commit to serious fellowships and we can do bolder ones, exciting ones and interesting ones around particular areas of research. Our flag is highly regarded and I think if we set out a very serious, well-funded,  well-structured UK and international peer-reviewed fellowship, I would be very surprised if people don’t take it seriously.”
But rather than just accounting for what could be lost, Mr Freeman is also looking to build on what we can do outside of the EU scheme. Part of this involves striking deals with other science powerhouses like Japan, which the minister visited last week.
“There are countries all around the world that are very keen to collaborate with us…In two to five years, we will be able to do something that is very powerful, more global and I think more focused on specific problems, with much higher priority for small industry and small company engagement. I think it will be better”
Mr Freeman reeled off a huge list of more countries he is eager to strike big science deals with, from the US to South Korea, Canada to Australia.
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 Researcher But the minister still needs to get the research community on his side, although many researchers are already. The UK has seen around 10 percent of researchers promised ERC fellowships move to the EU. And much of the research community has repeatedly made clear that Horizon participation is vital for the future of British science.
 James Wilsdon, a Professor of Research Policy at the University of Sheffield, previously told that while Mr Freeman may claim to have a “Bold Plan B”, he warned that it “can’t come overnight”.
He said: “You can’t really have a Plan B for recreating big collaborative network projects. It is certainly a significant setback to the UK’s ambition to remain at the forefront of global science.
“We know, and there is ample evidence, that collaborative research is in general higher quality in terms of the influence it has. And in a lot of areas, you can’t really tackle key problems without collaborations with key groups.
“Even in a post-Brexit context there’s plenty of countries outside of the EU who are members of Horizon, and the Government always said we would stay in the framework programmes even if we did Brexit. So in a sense, to not be in them is an unnecessary act of self-harm to British science
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