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UK pharma cheers EU science announcement

UK won't be excluded from Horizon research collaboration

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Amid all the chaos and confusion of Brexit, the UK pharma industry finally has some good news to latch onto – it needn’t be excluded from EU’s flagship Horizon science programme.

The European Commission has just published its budget proposal for the next phase of Horizon, setting aside almost €98bn for Horizon Europe - which gets underway in 2021 after the current Horizon 2020 comes to an end – and will extend out to 2027.

In amongst the detail of the proposals is the snippet that the UK scientific community had been hoping for: Horizon Europe will be open to third countries, which means – in theory at least – the UK will be able to participate in the programme after Brexit.

That’s a big deal, as the programme is a key source of support for researchers through fellowships and exchanges as well as providing funding to help bring new scientific projects forward. Among the changes to Horizon 2020 is the creation of a European Innovation Council (EIC) to help selected high-potential projects develop through to the market, and there will be a greater emphasis on ‘open science’ predicated on free access to publications and data.


The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) was quick to welcome the third-party clause. Its deputy chief scientific officer, Dr Sheuli Porkess (pictured) said that “as the third biggest bio-science cluster in the world, after the East and West coasts of America, the UK’s strong science base is critical to the strength of European science.”

It’s worth noting that the European Parliament and Council still have to negotiate and adopt the proposals before they can go ahead. And while UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said in the past she would be prepared to commit funding to stay in the Horizon programme after the UK leaves the EU there still seems to be some debate about what might follow a no-deal, hard Brexit scenario, reports

Earlier this week the EU’s budget commissioner Günther Oettinger suggested at a conference in Brussels that access could be dependent on allowing freedom of movement for scientists, but said that making a special case for researchers was unworkable. “A hard Brexit will finish our collaboration,” he suggested, adding that the EU would suffer from not having the UK’s involvement.

Meanwhile along with welcoming the Horizon Europe development, Porkess also re-iterated the UK pharma industry concerns about other post-Brexit challenges.

“A deal on science is a good start but now we need to see the UK and EU to come to an agreement on other areas, specifically around the regulation and supply of medicines so that patients in the UK and the EU are able to get access to medicines without problems or delays after the UK leaves the EU,” she said.

This week has already seen reports that Merck & Co/MSD is considering stockpiling medicines in case of supply chain disruption post-Brexit.

Article by
Phil Taylor

9th June 2018

From: Research



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