Government encourages innovative small firms to apply for grants as UK rejoining EU Horizon scheme finalised

Government encourages innovative small firms to apply for grants as UK rejoining EU Horizon scheme finalised
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Mon 4th Dec 2023

The government has said it will focus on encouraging innovative small businesses to apply for grant funding following the finalising of the UK's association with a major EU research and development (R&D) scheme.

Horizon Europe is a €95.5bn (£82bn) seven year funding programme that launched in 2020. It provides funding for collaboration between research institutions and innovative businesses in key sectors such as healthcare and artificial intelligence (AI).

Under Horizon 2020, the programme which ran before Horizon Europe, UK researchers and innovators received around €7.5bn, which was 12% of the total available funds.

When the UK exited the European Union in 2020, the plan was for it to have associate membership of Horizon Europe but that was prevented by disagreements related to post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade arrangements. However, the government announced earlier this year that agreement had been reached for the UK to rejoin the scheme.

The agreement was officially sealed in Brussels today with science and technology secretary Michelle Donelan meeting with EU Research and Innovation Commissioner Iliana Ivanova to formalise the deal. As well as Horizon, the UK has also joined the EU's Copernicus space research programme.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) said it will launch a communications campaign to highlight the benefits Horizon and Copernicus can deliver for academics, researchers and businesses, with a particular focus on "small and medium-sized businesses involved in R&D, which might not have previously considered applying".

In a press release, DSIT added:

"Encouraging smaller businesses to pitch for, and win, Horizon and Copernicus funding supports DSIT’s aim to help the UK’s promising science and tech firms scale-up and grow.

"Officials will work closely with key sector stakeholders to ensure this message reaches businesses of all kinds, who might not have previously considered applying, as well as researchers and academics in every part of the country."

Commenting on the deal, Michelle Donelan said:

"Being part of Horizon and Copernicus is a colossal win for the UK’s science, research and business communities, as well as for economic growth and job creation – all part of the long-term decisions the UK government is taking to secure a brighter future. 

"The UK led a quarter of the work we were involved in through Horizon’s predecessor, so we know from recent history the importance of the UK’s skills and expertise in making this programme work, and it is vital that we seize this moment.

"Now it is essential that we bring our science, research and business communities together with their EU and global partners to deliver the benefits from our bespoke Horizon and Copernicus deal, from our share of the 300,000 new jobs Horizon aims to create, to the untold advances it will unlock for our health, the environment and more." 

Funding available through Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe delivers funding through dedicated work programmes, and all funding opportunities are listed on the European Commission website.

The EU runs accelerator schemes for small businesses and start-ups as part of Horizon Europe. As example is the programme run by the European Innovation Council which provides up to €2.5m of grants and up to €15m of equity investments.

UK Research and Innovation summarises Horizon Europe funding as being available for:

  • excellent research in any field

  • researcher mobility

  • research infrastructure

  • global challenges and industrial competitiveness including:

    • health

    • culture, creativity and inclusive society

    • civil security for society

    • digital, industry and space

    • climate, energy and mobility

    • food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment

  • innovation

  • the development of the European research and innovation systems

Full government guidance for applying for Horizon funding is here.

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance journalist and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's news reporter and Bristol Local Leader. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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