Secretary of State speech at the UK in Horizon celebration event

A speech delivered by Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology, Michelle Donelan, at the UK in Horizon celebration event on Monday 4 December

The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP

From day one of becoming Britain’s first Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology,

I made a commitment…

…to place the views and voices of our greatest innovators and our boldest researchers right at the heart of my department’s work.

They told me loud and clear how essential Horizon Europe was for ensuring that British science could play its part on the world stage.

And I agreed.

We also agreed on the importance of securing a good deal – one that gives the best and the brightest of the UK’s scientific community access to the world’s largest research collaboration programme.

A deal that delivers for British scientists, taxpayers, and businesses.

I am proud that today we have signed, sealed and delivered that deal…

…A bespoke agreement which is not just in their best interests,

but in the best interests of global scientific endeavour and discovery.

Months of painstaking work, of close negotiations, of Ministers and officials working around the clock with their EU counterparts have all culminated in this defining moment.

The agreement we are celebrating today gives us a chance to write a new chapter in the story of British and European collaboration…

…One which will see our greatest minds working together…

… unlocking the bold scientific breakthroughs of tomorrow…

… and bringing our colossal collective strength to bear on the greatest challenges of our time – from our quest for new, clean, green energy through to finding cures for conditions like heart disease and dementia.

And to anyone who doubts the scale of our ambition or the significance of the deal that has been agreed,

I say: just look at what we have already accomplished. 

Under our association to Horizon 2020 the UK established over 230,000 collaborative links across 163 countries.

And together we expanded the frontiers of knowledge…  

Take Graphene Core 3.

A boundary-breaking project which saw some of our finest universities including Cambridge, Warwick and UCL working with a dream team of academics and businesses across over 20 European countries.

This led to a brand-new patented technology which can harness hydrogen fuel cells.

It bolstered us to take another massive leap forward towards our net zero future.

In our thriving life sciences sector, Imperial College worked with Horizon partners on developing a new HIV vaccine.

And thanks to the pooling of resources and the sharing of expertise, this crucial research helped launch early-stage clinical trials.

As Sir Elton John told British MPs just last week,

we have turned the corner in our fight against HIV

and it is scientists working through Horizon which have helped us get there.

but tonight our eyes are firmly fixed on the future…

…I want us to support Horizon Europe’s mission to create 300,000 new well-paid jobs by 2040.

And I want us to play a leading role in areas like AI – a game-changing technology which will define this decade.

This is an area in which Britain can bring so much to the global table.

We have led the international charge in supporting AI’s safe development, with the historic Bletchley Declaration signed by the EU and 28 other nations just last month.

Now, our greatest minds and thinkers can contribute to Horizon partnerships in AI, Data and Robotics worth over £2 billion.

And we can bolster Horizon’s scientific missions which I know will deliver enormous benefits for people in Britain, in Europe and around the world.

That includes Horizon’s cancer mission - accelerating research into better preventing, diagnosing and treating this life-threatening disease….

…A mission to support 3 million patients by 2030. 

In the UK, we have set ourselves our own target of diagnosing three-quarters of cancers at stages 1 or 2 by 2028.

The two will complement and reinforce each other and advance our global efforts to treat and cure cancer.

In partnership with the British Academy, and other key backers, we intend to support selected UK researchers applying for Horizon pillar 2, through ‘pump priming’ funding. Up to £10,000 will be available per application.

We want to give support to those researchers who have not had experience with Horizon before, including next generation researchers – so the fund will target to ensure we can maximise the UK’s involvement in the world’s largest research collaboration This will enable more of our inventors, researchers and innovators to submit strong applications so they can turn their exciting, ground-breaking, world-changing ideas into reality.

Of course, beyond Horizon, the deal we are celebrating today also means

participation in Copernicus and its state-of-the art earth observation system.

It is a huge win-win…

It is a win for our academics reinventing how we predict complex weather patterns.

How we fight climate change.

How we revolutionise agriculture.

It is a win for dozens of British businesses in the earth observation sector.

Businesses who are ready and raring to bid for multi-million-pound contracts to help design and deliver Copernicus technology. 

I know everyone in this room shares my excitement about what lies ahead.

Louis Pasteur told us that ‘Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity. It is the torch which illuminates the world.’

That spirit of global cooperation has defined the Horizon programme since its inception.

In this pursuit of new ideas, new breakthroughs, new knowledge,

The UK is delighted to join you once more.

And we will be with you every step of the way.

Thank you.

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology
The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP