At the 5th annual Horizon 2020 conference in Cardiff, Counsel General and Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles warned that Brexit – especially a no deal – could derail growing confidence in the Welsh scientific research and innovation sector.
Horizon 2020 is the EU’s largest research and innovation funding programme. Worth around €80 billion between 2014 and 2020, it focuses resources on tackling some of the biggest challenges facing society, as well as research streams developing excellence in science and industrial leadership.
Since 2014, over 300 Welsh businesses and universities have received 120 million euros from Horizon 2020, on top of a wider investment of £340 million in research and innovation through EU Structural Funds.
While Horizon 2020 remains open to Welsh organisations, with €11 billion available for applications next year, a no-deal Brexit would result in the UK being ineligible for key parts of the programme and a loss of influence over the development of Horizon Europe – the successor programme for 2021 – 2027.
Mr Miles said:
“Research and innovation is hugely important to Wales. It develops knowledge, encourages commercial growth and economic activity, and helps to bring skilled workers and growing businesses into the region.
“The threat of a disruptive no deal exit from the EU is rising, and the damage it can do to Wales’ scientific research programmes is a real concern. Horizon 2020 funding has supported 277 Welsh projects in the past 5 years, bringing new products, processes and services to the global market, and supporting research on health, natural environment and broader welfare issues in Wales.
“It has also brought Welsh enterprises together with around 3,000 of the top public and private sector scientific experts across Europe and beyond. These networks have helped to maximise supply-chain opportunities, and build multi-regional trade initiatives.
“A no-deal Brexit threatens all this progress. As a country outside the EU, Wales would be shut out of key elements of the Horizon 2020 programme where we’ve been most successful. This would be a huge blow. There’s even a risk that Horizon 2020 could become a competitor which would attract UK-based researchers to relocate to the EU.
“We broadly share the UK’s priorities for Horizon Europe – and we are working constructively with the UK government in the planning stages, but it’s essential they take sufficient account of Welsh devolved competence in economic development. We’ve been working tirelessly to ensure devolution is respected and that UK plans reflect Welsh priorities.
“It’s also vital that we protect Wales’ access to regional funding through replacement Structural Funds. To date, the UK government’s approach to the Shared Prosperity Fund undermines the good work done to strengthen intergovernmental working. It adds uncertainty, and threatens growth and innovation in Wales. We need this uncertainty to end. We need a UK government serious about working together with us to protect our brilliant businesses and universities by taking no deal off the table.”