Vice-Provost’s View: Helping you to engage with Horizon Europe

UCL Vice-Provost (Research) Professor David Price on the support available to researchers engaging with Horizon Europe funding opportunities.

Four and a half years after the Brexit referendum, Christmas Eve brought greater clarity about UK researchers’ access to European Union funding. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement included association with Horizon Europe, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation that succeeds Horizon 2020.

While many details remain uncertain - not least how the UK Government will fund its contribution, and what Horizon Europe’s specific priorities will be - this is a hugely positive opportunity for UK research, and in particular for UCL researchers.

I commend our researchers on their excellent track record in competing (and collaborating) for Horizon 2020 funding. We rank third in the UK for the value and/or number of awards across a broad range of programmes, including in the three main pillars of ’Excellent Science’, ’Industrial Leadership’ and ’Societal Challenges’.

This success is due, of course, to our researchers’ brilliant and innovative ideas, and the dedication of those professional staff who support them. As Horizon Europe begins to issue its first funding calls (expected in April 2021), there is no reason that this pattern of success - and the discovery, invention and impact that it generates - cannot continue.

Indeed, looking beyond Europe at our overall research applications and awards, we have had another outstanding year: the value and number of our applications exceed that of the previous two years; our award count is greater than that in 2019-20; and our award value exceeds that of the previous three years.

These achievements are all the more remarkable in the challenging circumstances in which we all find ourselves. Recognising that, and the differential detriments the pandemic has brought to those across our community, I appreciate that progressing funding applications cannot be easy. There is no intention to pressurise anyone to make research applications; rather, I wish to highlight the outstanding support that is available to those who can.

Our Research Coordination Offices - for SLASH/IOE , BEAMS and SLMS - stand ready, as ever, to support applications. In relation to Horizon Europe in particular, UCL’s excellent European Research and Innovation Office (ERIO) continues to provide a full suite of support services, including European Research Council (ERC) and Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowships, collaborative proposals and partnership development, preand post-award innovation management support, and post-award collaborative project support. (Our Research Coordination Offices also work closely with ERIO on applications to the ERC and other schemes supporting individuals.)

Alongside this, the UCL Research Operations Group continues to seek to optimise our university’s research operations (any process, service or function that supports the research lifecycle). UCL Research & Innovation Services, a new Professional Services division to which Research Services, ERIO and Research Contracts will move next month, is part of this optimisation.

All these teams are eager to provide researchers and the professional staff who support them with the help they need.

A recently updated set of FAQs on the UCL Brexit website addresses the implications of the Brexit agreement for research and researchers, including:

  • the specific programmes in which UK researchers will be able to participate
  • when funding calls will be made, where known
  • details of UCL support available
  • arrangements for UK researchers to visit the EU (and EU researchers to visit the UK) for research purposes
  • effects of the new immigration system.

I would also draw your attention to other funding opportunities to support international research collaboration, within and beyond Europe, such as those promoted by UK Research and Innovation and Universities UK.

I am so grateful for, and inspired by, how well our research community has risen to multiple challenges over the past year. I firmly believe that we will continue to prosper - and benefit the world - whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research)

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