What will happen to Grant Funding after Brexit?

As uncertainty over ‘Brexit: Deal or No Deal’ continues amid the stop and start negotiations between the UK Government and the EU, many innovation-focused businesses here will be feeling a growing sense of anxiety about the future of grant funding programmes.

16 November 2020

United Kingdom leaving the European Union represented in puzzle pieces.

At present there are a range of available grants to help UK businesses accelerate the ambition and vision of their product or services portfolio including the EU’s Horizon programme.

Horizon 2020 (H2020), the current EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, is the largest to date and has been supported by nearly €80 billion of funding since its launch in 2014. It focuses on science, industrial leadership and societal challenges, with specific allocations of funding in each area.

At the end of the year H2020 will be succeeded by Horizon Europe, a programme supported by a further €80 billion which will go into effect until 2027.

H2020 has been one of the key mechanisms in providing crucial funding for innovative EU companies, including those in the UK. If, however, a Brexit deal fails to materialise before the UK’s departure at the end of the year, British business will very likely need to look elsewhere for support.  With a No Deal Brexit seeming highly possible at this moment in time, the big question is what could and should the UK Government put in place as an effective replacement to the current EU grant funding stream?

H2020 was primarily focused on SMEs employing under 250 people. To achieve impact and support the growth of these businesses, a new UK grant scheme would need to continue to focus on the novelty and/or uniqueness of any new technological developments; the wider impact of an innovation project in terms of jobs creation, its potential to generate growth, and its potential benefits to the environment and society.

Existing UK grant funding schemes, including Innovate UK, may be called upon to pick up any slack should a No Deal force our withdrawal from the Horizon programme. A further option is for regional bodies, which include Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England, Scottish Enterprise, the Welsh Development Agency, and Invest Northern Ireland to be given funds and autonomy to provide grants to support innovative companies within their local areas. This could be an effective means of stimulating inward investment in less advantaged areas helping address the wealth gap in many regions across the UK.

Another new grant funding option could come via the UK Government’s ‘blue skies’ science and research agency, part of a series of pro-business measures designed to boost Britain’s competitive edge. Earlier this year an additional £800m of public funds was been pledged for this initiative, modelled on the USA’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), to fund ‘high-risk, high reward science.’ The agency is part of plans to nearly double public investment in research and development to £22 billion per year by 2025 to help Britain become a world leading science and research centre.

Article originally published on Business Leader

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