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By Karen Baker, Technical Analyst

Published on 21st March this year, the report[1] on the importance of science and innovation in current Brexit talks aims to set out the Government’s reassurances to retain and build on the UKs leading position in science, within the context of leaving the EU.

As the UK continues in earnest the process to leave the European Union, the Government recognises that maintaining strong links to the European science community is crucial. The UK is historically a strong leader in the sciences, and has earned an enviable place in the European science community. Science and innovation should not be hindered by geographical borders, and richer research can only take place if countries are able to freely collaborate.

So, what has the report confirmed for science in the UK? Briefly, the report states several recommendations regarding participation in the Horizon 2020 research funding framework programme and its successor FP9; the accessibility of highly skilled talent in the UK and EU research communities; and aligning scientific regulations for post-Brexit UK with the EU.

The EU’s consultation of Horizon 2020’s successor, FP9, has included UK Government input, which is heartening and highlights the confidence the EU has in the UK’s strong contribution to such funding programmes. However, the Government is yet to commit to participate in FP9 and it remains unclear whether post-Brexit UK will have similar access to the generous funding programme as it possesses for Horizon 2020.

In terms of post-Brexit immigration plans, the Migration Advisory Committee is due to report in September 2018. The President of the Royal Society, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, is quoted in saying that “regardless of how much talent we grow here, we will always need talent from abroad, because if you want to be the best in the world you have to recruit from the best……mobility allows much more rapid exchange of ideas and expertise, allowing you to remain at the cutting edge”. At present, it is unknown whether the migration proposals will ensure that the talent required in science and innovation sectors, and this includes technicians and laboratory assistants as well as the top researchers, can be retained in the UK.

So far, bodies such as the Royal Society of Chemistry have voiced their disappointment that the report omits to answer questions regarding a UK-EU scientific collaboration on regulations. There is a concern that a lack of information-sharing between UK and EU regulators while directives are transitioned from current EU control could affect trade and innovation. It is hoped that complete deregulation can be minimised and an element of shared frameworks can be maintained, to prevent sizeable negative impact on trading relationships.

As the Government move towards some form of agreement for UK-EU science and innovation, there is the strong hope that EU collaboration in a post-Brexit climate can continue to flourish, to retain as strong as possible a relationship between EU and UK researchers.

[1] House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Brexit, science and innovation: second report of session 2017-19, 21 March 2018.

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