What does Brexit mean for Norwegian Horizon 2020 participants?

In case of a “hard Brexit” the Research Council of Norway recommends that Norwegian actors give careful thought before taking part in Horizon 2020 applications coordinated by British institutions or companies.

Norwegian groups participating in ongoing projects with British partners must be prepared to deal with changes in their projects and re-negotiation of their contracts.

“The UK is important in the international research arena, and we are interested in continuing our close scientific cooperation,” says Chief Executive of the Research Council, John-Arne Røttingen. “We’re hoping this issue is resolved soon in a manner that will benefit research cooperation with the UK and Horizon 2020, and we will also help to support Norwegian-British cooperation via the Research Council’s funding,” he states.

Pursuant to its withdrawal agreement with the EU, the UK may continue to participate in the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, as an Associated Country after pulling out of the EU on 29 March. This applies until the conclusion of the programme on 31 December 2020. Under the agreement, British participants will still be able to receive funding from all segments of the programme and will be eligible to participate in new applications for Horizon 2020 funding on the same footing as partners from EU Member States or Associated Countries.

The likelihood of a hard Brexit” (“no-deal”) has increased significantly with the British Parliament’s rejection of the UK-EU withdrawal agreement. Norwegian research organisations, companies, public agencies and other actors participating in Horizon 2020 should therefore prepare for the possibility of a “no-deal” outcome in which the UK would become a Third Country in the context of Horizon 2020, other EU programmes as well as in terms of EEA law.

Mobility and research cooperation with the UK will be more difficult

At a general level, it is particular limitations restricting the mobility of students and research personnel that will pose challenges for British citizens seeking to conduct research/work in Norwegian research institutions or companies, and their Norwegian counterparts who want to do the same in the UK. Other areas that may be affected include access to research infrastructure, intellectual property rights, European partnership agreements and joint projects headed by British researchers.

A “hard Brexit” will make the UK a Third Country

If no EU-UK association agreement is reached (“no-deal”) the UK will end up with the status of a Third Country vis-à-vis Horizon 2020. While British partners will still be able to take part in projects, in most cases they will not be eligible to receive EU funding. The funding opportunities available to UK participants will be subject to the same terms as participants from other third countries: participation must be deemed essential for carrying out the action or the text of a call for proposals must explicitly state that funding is available for third countries. British authorities have signalled that they will cover project costs for British partners in Horizon 2020 projects in the event of a “no-deal” outcome.

Status as a third country entails a number of consequence because the regulations set restrictions for the participation of third countries:

  • At least three participants from three different EU member states or associated countries are required for all collaborative projects. Projects involving cooperation between three EU member states/associated countries in which one of the three EU partners is from the UK will thus have problems in the wake of a “hard Brexit”.
  • Third countries do not have access to funding instruments that provide support for individual actors, such as the European Research Council (ERC), the SME instrument or mobility grants under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.
  • The financial guarantee from British authorities only encompasses project costs for British partners. Projects involving the use of cascading grants – where a project coordinator typically distributes funding to other partners – will not be covered under the British guarantee. British-coordinated projects of this type may therefore encounter some difficulties in the continuation of these projects.

Although there is nothing that formally prohibits third country coordinators in Horizon 2020 projects, it is a highly unusual practice. Thus, in the event of a “hard Brexit” it is most likely that British coordinators in ongoing projects would end up being replaced.

Careful consideration of applications involving British coordinators

In connection with future calls for proposals under Horizon 2020, the Research Council recommends that Norwegian applicants give careful consideration to the potential risks of cooperation with British partners. Norwegian applicants should think through all the potential ramifications before participating in applications coordinated by British institutions or companies or in entering into consortia between three EU member states/associated countries in which one of the three EU partners is from the UK.

Contact our experts for guidance

The Research Council’s team of National Contact Points (NCP) can provide advice and guidance to Norwegian applicants considering cooperating on grant applications with a British partner.

For more information, please visit Horizon 2020’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page(in Norwegian).