21 November 2017
In summary, all H2020 grants are underwritten by the UK up until we formally exit the EU, and so are all proposals submitted before March 2019 which are thereafter successful. In practical terms, this means that the UK can fully participate in the H2020 2018 Call (for Space, open since end of October 2017) and the forthcoming 2019 Call (which is planned to close in March 2019).
Soon after our referendum last year, Carlos Moedas – Commissioner for Research Science and Innovation – in his speech of 25 July 2016 was clear that as long as the UK is a member of the EU, the UK retains all rights and obligations of a Member State, and that this includes full eligibility for funding under H2020. He alluded to the fact that H2020 will continue to be evaluated on merit and not on nationality. He also urged the community to continue to choose their project partners on the basis of excellence.
The guidance for evaluators of H2020 proposals is also clear:
‘Until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, both when it comes to rights and obligations. This includes the eligibility of UK legal entities to participate and receive funding in Horizon 2020 actions. Experts should not evaluate proposals with UK participants any differently than before.’
The UK H2020 underwrite was announced on 13 August 2016 and was also most recently picked up by Jo Johnson in his speech on 18 July 2017. The HMT Treasury statement of 13 August committed to the following:
‘UK businesses and universities should continue to bid for competitive EU funds while we remain a member of the EU and we will work with the Commission to ensure payment when funds are awarded. The Government will underwrite the payment of such awards, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.’
And lastly, the EU published a notice on the H2020 Participant Portal on 6 October 2017 stating:
‘For British applicants: Please note that until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, when it comes to rights and obligations; this includes the eligibility of UK legal entities to fully participate and receive funding in Horizon 2020 actions. Please be aware however that the eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to be eligible to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project on the basis of Article 50 of the grant agreement.’
To clarify, this statement refers to the existing Ts&Cs of the EU Framework Programme agreements. Termination of projects is not automatic or obligatory. The grounds under which the Commission would terminate a project or the participation of a beneficiary are covered under Article 50.3 of the Model Grant Agreement, and these include the beneficiary being declared bankrupt, the research being no longer relevant, or, other circumstances which call into question the decision to award the grant. As a point of detail, eligibility criteria must be adhered to throughout the duration of the project. If only the minimum number of eligible countries are involved in a project (the UK plus two others), this could cause eligibility issues if the UK is not associated to H2020. In this context however, the UK has committed to underwrite all successful projects submitted up until our formal exit from the EU.