Several Horizon Europe projects may have to change the consortiums
Seven countries have not finalised their association agreements with Horizon Europe. This may require projects with partners from these countries to change the composition of their consortia or the role of their partners.
Nineteen countries have begun negotiations to be associated with the EU's research and innovation programme Horizon Europe. The European Commission has now published an overview with the status of these negotiations. Norway and a number of other countries have formalised the association agreements during the autumn of 2021, but there are still seven countries where the formal association has not yet entered into force. This applies to Armenia, the Faroe Islands, Kosovo, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Tunisia, and Ukraine.
Norwegian actors must be prepared to change the roles and composition of the project consortium before signing Grant Agreement
The Horizon Europe programme guide states the following about transitional arrangements for countries planning association with HEU:
Until association agreements start producing legal effects either through provisional application or their entry into force, the transitional arrangements set out in the General Annexes to the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2021-2022 is applicable (for the entire Programme, including ERC, EIC, EIT and the institutionalised European partnerships).
This means that applicants from countries that are in the process of association can participate in applications to Horizon Europe as if the countries were already associated.
Projects that are set for funding from calls with an application deadline of 2021 will in the coming months approach the time of signing Grant Agreement. If the project has a partner from one of the seven countries mentioned above, and the country's formal association is not in place at the time of signing the contract, the partner will be granted the status of applicant from non-associated third countries. It will then be necessary to make changes to the consortia in order for the application to be valid.
For collaborative projects, the most immediate solution will be for a partner from a country, that has not completed association, to change its status from ordinary to associated partner. An associated partner does not sign the Grant Agreement and does not receive funding from Horizon Europe (note that the associated partner to the project is not the same as an associated country to Horizon Europe). Associated partners must therefore provide their own funding for work to be carried out in the project.
For Coordination and Support Actions (CSA), it is usually not possible to include associated partners. Furthermore, institutions and enterprises from non-associated third countries cannot coordinate collaborative projects or participate in projects that go to individual beneficiaries under the European Research Council (ERC) and parts of the European Innovation Council (EIC) and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.
Norwegian actors participating in project applications with partners from countries where the formal association is not in place, should prepare for how changes can be made to the project before signing Grant Agreement.
Delayed association is a temporary problem but perhaps not for the UK?
For most countries, the delays in the association with Horizon Europe are due to technical reasons, for example related to the processes for signing and ratification of the association agreements. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that the association agreements will enter into force during the first half of 2022.
For the UK, it is more uncertain. The UK clarified the framework for its association with Horizon Europe in the trade and cooperation agreement it entered with the EU in early 2021. However, due to disagreements between the EU and the UK in areas other than research and innovation, the process is taking longer time than expected. There have been no clear signals from the Commission regarding whether and when British association will be in place.
If the political problems between the UK and the EU are not resolved, there is a risk that the UK will not become associated to Horizon Europe. Norwegian applicants should take this into account when preparing applications for Horizon Europe that include cooperation with British partners.
In anticipation of the UK association, the UK authorities have established a temporary scheme to cover project costs for UK project participants in Horizon Europe. Information about this scheme can be found on the website of the UK Research Office - UKRO. Currently the UK guarantee only applies to a limited number of topics, where it is likely that signing of Grant Agreements will take place before the end of April 2022. It is possible that the guarantee will be extended to more topics if the final decision is further delayed.
We do not yet know what the framework conditions will be for UK participants if the UK is not associated with Horizon Europe. The UK government has indicated that it will re-prioritise the funding set aside for EU programmes and explore options that will enable UK research communities to continue their work, including wider international cooperation. We do not yet have information on whether the UK authorities will establish a permanent scheme to fund project costs for UK partners in collaborative projects if the UK is granted non-associated third countries status to Horizon Europe.
Association is still in the blue for Switzerland
For Switzerland, there is also disagreement with the EU in areas other than research and innovation that in practice put on hold the association to Horizon Europe. Switzerland is not currently on the list of countries the Commission is negotiating association agreements with. For the time being, partners from Switzerland will therefore only be able to participate as associated partners in collaborative projects where participation from third countries is allowed.
Swiss authorities have established a scheme to cover project costs for Swiss project participants in Horizon Europe. Further information on Switzerland's participation in Horisont Europe can be found on the website of the Swiss authorities and with the Swiss Information Office for Research, Innovation and Education - SwissCore.
The Research Council of Norway's NCPs can answer questions
If you have questions about how to deal with project cooperation with partners from countries that have not yet finalised agreements on association with Horizon Europe, you can contact the Research Council of Norway's NCPs for advice and guidance.
Messages at time of print 28 May 2022, 19:40 CEST