Skip to main content

Together we are beating cancer

Donate now
  • Science & Technology
  • Policy & Insight

Cancer research scientists urge UK government to reach a deal on Horizon Europe

Jacob Smith
by Jacob Smith | News

25 August 2023

0 comments 0 comments

An illustration of Europe seen from space, with blue beams representing communication between countries
Shutterstock - NicoElNino

The UK must join Horizon Europe, the European Union’s funding programme for research and innovation, as soon as possible to secure the future of cancer research, according to a survey of experts carried out by Cancer Research UK.  

The poll of 84 cancer researchers revealed overwhelming support for the UK to join the £81 billion research scheme, with 75% of respondents favouring association with it. 

Cancer Research UK is calling on the UK and EU to close the deal on association to Horizon Europe, saying that it is in the best interests of cancer researchers and people affected by cancer. 

“We need Horizon Europe very badly,” said Professor Julian Downward, head of the Oncogene Biology Lab at the Francis Crick Institute. 

“The current situation is damaging UK science every day. We are losing top junior faculty regularly who decide to move to EU countries so they can take up European Research Council grants. 

“The UK faces a brain drain of scientific talent unless we can make the UK more attractive to international talent. Being able to bid for grants in Horizon Europe is an essential step towards that.” 

The need for a deal

Recent reports have indicated that negotiations between UK and European officials are close to an outcome, with the final say coming from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.  

Scientists now wait anxiously to find out if a deal will be finalised in the autumn, ending two and a half years of uncertainty. 

The lack of an outcome regarding the UK’s status in Horizon Europe has made it difficult for British scientists to lead major European research projects. 76% of respondents also said that the new UK-EU relationship had caused difficulties in recruiting and retaining research staff.  

“Two and a half years of delay has damaged the UK’s reputation as a hub for international collaborative research and investment in life sciences,” said Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy and information at Cancer Research UK. 

“Cancer scientists are finding it much harder to bring the brightest and best into their labs. Not having access to Horizon Europe on the same terms as researchers in the EU would mean UK scientists at the margins, rather than at the centre, of future funding opportunities.  

Our manifesto

The survey was conducted to inform Cancer Research UK’s upcoming Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care, due to be published this November.  

In the Manifesto, Cancer Research UK will call on the UK and EU to finalise a deal for the UK to associate to Horizon Europe, and future funding programmes, if an agreement is not reached by then.  

The Manifesto will also include proposals to attract international researchers, by cutting the costs of visas in line with comparable European countries.  

“Association to Horizon Europe is overwhelmingly in the best interests of people living with cancer, and the scientists and clinicians researching new ways to beat it,” Walker added. 

“The UK and EU must now work intensively to unlock association to Horizon Europe and end the delays that have frustrated scientists and damaged the UK’s reputation as a science leader and an investment location. Time is of the essence.” 

Read the latest on our Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care