The principal of the University of Glasgow has welcomed a proposed deal between the UK and the EU on a research and innovation programme.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak is expected to sign off on a deal that would see the UK re-join the European Union's £85bn Horizon programme following the Brexit vote.

It's expected that the deal will be announced on Tuesday following a meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission.

When the UK left the EU it was granted associate membership for scientific and research projects, but that wasn't activated due to the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol.

With that having been resolved in February it's expected that Mr Sunak will sign off on a deal to join Horizon for an investment of around £2bn per year.

That has been welcomed by Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Glasgow.

The Herald:

Writing in The Herald he said: "The acrimonious Brexit negotiations strained relations with the EU. But we now seem to be entering a period when bridges can be re-built. Research is a good place to start.

"Many universities across Scotland and the UK, including my own, have worked hard to nurture and grow our European links post-Brexit, the uncertainty around Horizon Europe has certainly presented some challenges. But the news of a potential deal on Horizon association is very welcome and signals the direction this UK Government is taking our relationship with the EU.

"Indeed, since the Windsor Framework was agreed back in March, discussions on Horizon Europe have moved to a much more positive footing. The sector has been eagerly anticipating the UK’s association to Horizon Europe and we have been urging an acceleration of talks with the EU.

"Universities like ours have continued to encourage researchers to apply for European research funding calls, with hopes of swift accession to the scheme. And while the UK Government’s own Horizon Europe Guarantee has afforded some protection of funding for UK researchers (to the tune of £1 billion since November 2021), this had only been extended to the end of September 2023.

"The greatest challenge for institutions has been navigating this uncertainty. We have had to reassure European partners that joint projects will be supported for the duration of their lifecycles. We also lost some European Research Council (ERC) grant-holders who preferred to move their grants to EU-based universities.

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"We know that excellent research and scientific breakthroughs in the 21st century necessitate collaboration. The Horizon Europe Scheme has no close competitors as a transnational funding arrangement."

It had previously been reported that Mr Sunak was considering an alternative approach to Horizon, in the form a UK-led programme involving collaboration with non-EU as well as European nations.

That would have meant signing up to certain aspects of Horizon but not others, and using the remaining money for the new programme.

A scheme called Pioneer was developed in the event that talks over membership failed, but researchers pushed for association with Horizon.

It's now believed that a renegotiated deal which would bring UK contributions more into line with other associate members has been agreed and will be signed by the Prime Minister this week.

A spokesperson for Mr Sunak said last week: "I think overall we want to make sure that any deal, whether it is Horizon or the UK alternative Pioneer, is the one that produces the best value for UK science and research and also for taxpayers.

"That is what the Prime Minister will consider at the appropriate time."

The European Commission drafted and approved a plan for Horizon Europe to raise EU science spending levels by 50% over the years 2021–2027.

Ukraine, Armenia,  Israel,Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, New Zealand and Serbia are all associate members of the programme.