Simon Harris commits to Magee College and wants access to €95.5 billion Horizon Europe fund

The higher education minister Simon Harris says he is committed to the further expansion of Magee College and wants the €95.5 billion Horizon Europe fund for research and innovation to be accessible to third level institutions in the north.

By Kevin Mullan
Friday, 15th October 2021, 1:21 pm

He said 'there is so much potential to do more in Derry and benefit the whole north-west region of this island' during an exchange on research and development in the Dáil this week.

Horizon Europe has been billed as the most ambitious EU research and innovation programme to date and has a budget of €95.5 billion for the period from 2021 to 2027.

The massive fund that is designed to facilitate collaboration and strengthen the impact of research to develop, support and implement EU policies while tackling global challenges was raised by Fine Gael spokesperson on European Affairs, Neale Richmond, T.D., who asked what steps are being taken to ensure the north is involved in it.

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Magee College

"For the past number of years, the Horizon Europe programme has provided huge funding and motivation, not just for the third-level sector but to so many researchers to develop vital new innovations. In light of Brexit, what steps are being taken by the Government to ensure Northern Irish institutions and researchers will still be able to access the new Horizon Europe programme?" asked Deputy Richmond.

Deputy Harris replied: "The Government and I strongly support Northern Ireland’s participation in Horizon Europe, the new framework programme for research and innovation. Researchers and innovators from across the island have worked successfully on previous framework programmes and I want this to continue."

He said he expected institutions and researchers in the north to have access to the programme under the terms of the European Union/United Kingdom Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

"The Government gave a clear commitment, as did the previous Government, to ensuring that Northern Ireland is never left behind and we are going to honour that commitment in every way we can," he said, adding, "I welcome the fact that under the current agreement it is envisaged that the UK, and therefore Northern Ireland, will have access to Horizon 2020 as associate members. That would be a good outcome."

The minister said he is committed to strengthening North-South collaboration in research and that the Dublin government will continue to support Ulster University in Derry.

"The Taoiseach's allocation of...€40 million pot from the shared island fund to directly fund research collaborations North and South is innovative and it has been well received.

"Equally, the commitments we have made under New Decade, New Approach regarding the Magee campus of Ulster University and the expansion of the university there, which is an issue Deputy Conway-Walsh and I discuss regularly, is another tangible example of our wish to do more," he said.

He said he continues to engage with the Department of the Economy in the north on third level matters.

"At an official level there is intensive engagement and collaboration between my officials and officials in the Department for the Economy. We have had very good engagement, particularly around the issue of Magee and Erasmus.

"I am determined on that issue of Magee that this Government will honour the commitments we have made under New Decade, New Approach to expand that footprint. There is the new medical school there but there is so much potential to do more in Derry and benefit the whole north-west region of this island," he said.