Horizon Europe and life sciences policy in the UK

European Union flags in front of the blurred European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium
Image: © artJazz | iStock

Open Access Government investigates some of the UK’s Minister of State in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s remit, including Horizon Europe and life sciences

George Freeman, the UK’s Minister of State in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology since February 2023, has previously had 15 years of career experience in the life sciences sector. He has pioneered healthcare innovations by working with researchers, hospitals, patient groups and biomedical firms. The Minister’s current responsibilities include science and research beyond the UK, Innovation Strategy, Horizon Europe and life sciences. (1)

Horizon Europe

Looking at one of the areas mentioned above under the Minister’s remit, I was interested to read the news that the UK Government heralds UK Horizon Europe applicants’ support extended up to June 2023. As a result, successful UK applicants will be able to carry on their vital research and innovation work, thanks to guaranteed funding.

Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “We are determined to ensure our world-class researchers are given the clarity and certainty they need to continue their sterling work, which is why I am taking the immediate step to extend the Horizon Europe guarantee, worth £882 million to date, for an additional 3 months to the end of June.” (2)

UK commercial clinical trials

In other recent news, we learn that Lord James O’Shaughnessy, Senior Partner at consultancy firm Newmarket Strategy, Board Member of Health Data Research UK, and former Health Minister, was appointed to review the UK commercial clinical trials landscape independently.

The review will suggest how to resolve important challenges in carrying out commercial clinical trials. It will also recommend how commercial clinical trials can assist the life sciences sector in opening up investment and growth opportunities in the UK.

George Freeman, Minister for State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, with experience in the life sciences sector, provided comment: “Commercial clinical trials are absolutely vital to both our UK life sciences sector and widening NHS patient access to innovative medicines all across the UK.

“The UK has traditionally been a strong global location for trials, as demonstrated most recently through the ground-breaking Covid Recovery trial which was set up in record time and was the world’s largest randomised controlled trial for COVID-19.

“However, our life sciences sector has reported a 44% fall in recruitment of patients to commercial clinical trials between 2017 and 2021 – so it is vital that we act to rebuild competitiveness.

“That is why I’m delighted that Lord O’Shaughnessy will lead this independent review to identify the key steps we need to take.” (3)

Fusion energy in the UK

When George was Minister of State in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy between October 2022 and February 2023 (1), he heralded the dawn of a new body to deliver the UK’s fusion programme, UK Industrial Fusion Solutions.

The Minister affirmed that abundant low-carbon energy without requiring fossil fuels could be in sight. Such energy transforms the UK and the world to deliver almost unlimited power, low carbon and safe. I read the Minister’s comments on this exciting aspect of his policy remit with much interest.

“Fusion energy now has the potential to transform our world for the better by harnessing the same process powering the sun to provide cheap, abundant, low-carbon energy across the world.

“The UK is the world leader in fusion science and technology, and now we are moving to turn fusion from cutting-edge science into a billion-pound clean energy industry to create thousands of UK jobs across the UK, grow exports and drive regeneration of this former coalfield site through a fusion innovation cluster in Nottinghamshire.

“That’s why I’m delighted to announce the creation of Industrial Fusion Solutions as the vehicle for industrial development and deployment of this technology as a new clean energy source in the coming decades.” (4)

Scientific discovery research in the UK

Finally, an earlier announcement concerning the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), established as an independent body, is worth highlighting. ARIA will make “transformational research programmes” that have the scope to make “new technological capabilities” to benefit the human race. This initiative is part of the UK government’s ambitions as the improved road ahead, making innovation a central aspect of improving lives and growing the economy.

Minister Freeman’s comments are an excellent place to close this article as we look ahead to thrilling scientific discovery research in the UK. “The UK has long been a leading light in scientific discovery research and pioneering technology: from the invention of the steam engine and discovery of DNA to the first computer and Formula 1 telemetry.

“As the global race for science and technology leadership heats up, we are committed to going further to cement our position as a Science Superpower: which is why we have committed to a record £39.8 billion public R&D budget in the Spending Review, alongside the creation of ARIA.

“Transformational discoveries come from world class scientists and labs with the freedom to explore the unknown. We have set up ARIA as an £800 million global super lab to do just that through frontier science and technology.” (5)


  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/people/george-freeman
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/horizon-europe-guarantee-scheme-extension-to-support-uk-rd
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-oshaughnessy-to-lead-independent-review-into-uk-clinical-trials
  4. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-takes-major-step-towards-near-limitless-low-carbon-energy
  5. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/research-agency-supporting-high-risk-high-reward-research-formally-established


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