LONDON - Britain unveiled on Thursday plans for a new research funding programme as a backup to the Horizon Europe scientific research scheme in case talks with the European Union on rejoining the programme fail.
The new plan, called "Pioneer", provides for 14.6 billion pounds ($18.2 billion) of funding over seven years — the same amount as Britain would have paid as part of Horizon until 2027, the government's department for science, innovation and technology said.
The government has been negotiating with the EU over rejoining Horizon - which has an overall budget of 95.5 billion euros ($104.4 billion) - after the bloc blocked Britain's participation because of a row over post-Brexit trade rules governing Northern Ireland.
An agreement to resolve that dispute was reached in February and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU can work on Britain rejoining Horizon Europe once it is implemented.
"We hope our negotiations will be successful, and that is our preference, but it must be on the right terms," Britain's minister for science and technology, Michelle Donelan, said.
"We must ensure we have an ambitious alternative ready to go should we need it and that our businesses and researchers have fed into it. Our top priority is supporting them to ensure their ground-breaking work can continue no matter what."
If new terms on rejoining Horizon cannot be agreed, Britain must be ready to provide funding via the new scheme, which reflects the aspects of Horizon most valued by researchers across business sectors and scientific disciplines, the government said in a 50-page prospectus for "Pioneer".
Britain last month extended until the end of June the financial guarantee it has provided to ensure UK applicants to Horizon receive funding as talks continue with the EU.
($1 = 0.8024 pound) ($1 = 0.9149 euro)
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Susan Fenton)