While many scientists are keen to see the UK back in the Horizon Europe programme, Professor Brian J Ford remains sceptical about the benefits…
There is much interest in our rejoining Horizon Europe. Many of our leading scientists insist that we will lose our status as a ‘science superpower’ if we don’t. They think science depends on money. It doesn’t. It’s originality and freedom of thought we need, and you don’t find that through top-heavy bureaucracies like the European Union (EU).
Horizon Europe exists to promote the EU, not the UK. To rejoin Horizon Europe, Britain would need to align our research and innovation framework with EU standards, which conflict with ours. We would lose our regulatory autonomy, and the ability to set our own research priorities would be abandoned. Britain would relinquish control over her own research and innovation agenda. Check their website to see the emphasis on promoting the European ideal. Look at the section “What is Horizon Europe?” and you will find that it “supports creating and better dispersing of excellent knowledge and technologies.” Since ours is the language of science, they could take some English lessons for a start; no scientific journal would publish copy like that.
Were we to rejoin Horizon Europe our influence over the decisions and priorities would be negligible, and we would represent a minority view in shaping the program’s strategic direction, funding allocations, or policy objectives. We would be contributing to Europe’s promotion of her interests, at the expense of ours. British managers have been attracted by the lure of European money, though there’s no guarantee there would be a net gain since they are just as eager to take money from us. And they would do it by exploiting our talent for their benefit. The exact financial terms would depend on the negotiations between the UK and the EU, but the financial burden may outweigh the benefits, especially since we might not access the same level of funding as we did during our membership of the EU.
Britain has always been a major player in scientific research and innovation, and we have been awarded more Nobel Prizes than any other country apart from the United States. We need to explore global funding mechanisms and increased international collaboration. Horizon compromises our political sovereignty and independence. Aligning with EU programs like Horizon would contradict the fundamental principle of “taking back control” and undermine the UK's ability to chart our own course in research and innovation.
Nobody likes to admit it, but Britain created the modern world. We gave the world the jet engine, the airliner and the first supersonic passenger aircraft; steam engines and the discovery of elements from aluminium to zinc (more than any other nation), the discovery of Uranus, Proxima Centauri, pulsars and spiral galaxies; the seismograph, antibiotics, the electron, periodic table and isotopes; stainless steel, the electromagnet, mass spectrometer, CT scanner, micrometer; fire extinguisher, adjustable spanner, stainless steel, electrical transformer, nuclear power station, cavity magnetron, cathode-ray tube, internal combustion engine, gas turbine, fuel cell; first refrigerator, dishwasher, in vitro fertilisation, self-winding watch, clockwork radio, elastic band, can opener, flushing lavatory, insulin, two-stroke engine, spinning frame, powered loom, sewing machine, synthetic dyes, beam engine, chronometer, dew point hygrometer, depth charge, jump jet, tuning fork, cinematography, hydraulic crane, gas turbine, antibiotics, the stun grenade, torpedo, photographic negative, stereoscope, electroplating, antiseptics, iris diaphragm, fibre optics, pencils, world’s oldest publisher, achromatic lens, planetarium, silicone, bicycle, seat belts, disc brakes, hovercraft, radio, diving bell, sextant, wind tunnel, propellor, hydrofoil, fingerprinting, cloud chamber, vulcanised rubber, arc-lamp; first ATM, thermos flask, tin cans, reflecting telescope, steam engine, electric motor, hovercraft, magnetic levitation, jet engine, fire extinguisher, pneumatic tyre, tanks, cloning, tarmacadam, pocket calculator, telephone, the computer, computer games, and the world-wide web. Why isn’t everyone taught this?
Britain leads the world in science and discovery. And (if the European scientists want to collaborate with us) they are always more than welcome. We all know that, and so does the EU.