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Paul Clark, Director of Trade and Investment, British Consulate General Barcelona

We also have a new Prime Minister in Rishi Sunak. These are difficult times for many countries, with the war in Ukraine threatening our regional stability and economic challenges disrupting markets worldwide. In these times of change and challenge, the UK’s commitment to life sciences – a sector that is vital for the economy and national health, remains constant.

The UK has the highest government spend on health R&D in Europe and there are few places in the world that can rival the UK for the density of its life sciences sector. For example the Crick Institute, Europe’s largest biomedical research centre, is just a stone’s throw from Google’s DeepMind AI campus in London, which in turn is 30 minutes by train from Europe’s largest cell and gene therapy cluster in Stevenage and an hour’s flight from Edinburgh’s BioQuarter – a 167-acre site for life sciences research and development. We have a huge amount of activity and innovation packed onto a relatively small island with great connectivity and access both within the UK and globally.

Investors are attracted by the scale and diversity of the UK’s vibrant life sciences industry and its focus on innovation, with world class talent (the UK is home to two of the world’s top ten universities for life sciences), a competitive business environment and the opportunity to work with the NHS, as well as export opportunities facilitated by the UK positioning itself at the centre of a global network of free trade agreements.

The UK’s biopharmaceuticals sector offers especially attractive opportunities, with world-class infrastructure, incubators, accelerators and established clinical trials networks, as well as some of the richest healthcare and research datasets worldwide, offering extensive longitudinal data. UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource, contains in-depth genetic and health information from half a million participants. Our Future Health, one of the world’s most ambitious health research programmes, has recently launched in the UK and will recruit a cohort of five million participants to create one of the most detailed pictures we’ve ever had of health and disease.

Catalan companies such as AlmirallFerrerReig Jofre and Grifols are among the thousands of international businesses thriving in the UK. Meanwhile, British companies are contributing to Catalonia’s own pioneering biopharma ecosystem, with cutting edge facilities such as AstraZeneca’s new global Development Hub for rare diseases.

International collaboration in science and innovation is key to UK prosperity. The UK was Catalonia’s second most important partner for scientific collaboration behind Germany in Horizon 2020 (and the first for the initial period). Collaborations among UK’s and Catalan entities and companies have yielded almost 3200 projects and 2 billion euros (2014-2020) . Data from Biocat shows that UK and Catalan hospitals and research centres collaborate in over 600 trials – over half of all active trials in Catalonia. The UK should remain a trusted partner for Catalan researchers, hospitals and companies going forward.

Francis Crick Institute

Horizon Europe

The EU Research Programme Horizon Europe (2020-2027) is already entering its second Work Programme, with new calls for 2023 and 2024. This is the largest collaborative Research and Innovation programme in the world, with a budget of around €95bn, providing funding support to researchers and innovators ranging from individuals to large-scale businesses. This has been one of the main collaboration tools for UK and Catalan research and innovation organisations, and we want this collaboration to continue, as the UK is one of the top life sciences ecosystems in the world, and Catalonia is one of the top in Europe. 

The UK and the EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed in December 2020 stated that that the UK would participate in Horizon Europe, as well as in Euratom Research & Training, Fusion for Energy and Copernicus. The parties agreed at the time that association would take place at the earliest opportunity when the underpinning EU legislation was in place. The UK Government firmly believes that working together on science and research is key to maintaining our shared security and values, especially in this time of common challenges in digital and sustainable transformation. The UK stands ready for the EU to formally associate the UK to these programmes given the enormous impact that they have on collaborators on both sides.

To provide reassurance to both UK and EU partners, the UK Government has already put in place a guarantee for eligible, successful UK applicants to Horizon Europe, which we recently extended to cover all calls closing on or before 31st December 2022. The funding is delivered through UK Research and Innovation, with all details about eligibility, scope and how to apply published on the UKRI website. 

As a leading participant in previous European research programmes, the UK stands ready to contribute financially to support the collaboration of our universities, research centres and businesses with EU colleagues. 

While the Government’s priority remains association to Horizon Europe, there is real concern about the impact of this extended period of uncertainty, which is why the UK Government has published a transitional plan with alternatives to Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom, designed to support research collaboration if association is no longer possible.  

Top science voices from across the UK and EU agree that Horizon Europe association is the best way forward for researchers to work together, and have called for quick association so that the UK can contribute scientifically and financially to Horizon Europe and to a truly open, inclusive and excellence-driven European Research Area. 

The UK Government is eager to strengthen the valuable and long-standing partnerships between British and Catalan researchers.  By working together, we can harness the power of global science and accelerate solutions to the shared global challenges of today and of the future. 


At the British Consulate General in Barcelona we are committed to supporting Catalan companies expand into the UK life sciences ecosystem and to facilitate Catalan-UK collaborations. If you have any questions about the information in this article, or want to know more about the services we offer, please get in touch – we would be delighted to hear from you.

Paul Clark, Director of Trade and Investment
Jessica Griffiths, Biotech & Pharma Lead
Aurora Ortega, Biotech & Pharma Assistant


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