The political consequences of Brexit have been discussed at length since the vote, but just how will this decision effect UK science and innovation?
One concern of those in the UK scientific and inventing community is a potential reduction in the amount of funding available to them. This is because the EU funds research and innovation across the EU, including in the UK, and leaving might mean that UK institutions are cut off from these EU funding programs.
The program that innovators are most concerned about losing out on is Horizon 2020. This is the largest EU research and innovation program to date, in which €80 billion of funding is made available over a period of seven years.
This funding is not just available to academic research institutions but, crucially, also to SMEs, traditionally the engine house of getting innovating products to market. The UK is a significant recipient of Horizon 2020 funding; since 2014, when the program started, the UK has received €318 million from Horizon 2020. This is more than any other country, perhaps demonstrating the UK’s reputation for inventing; the UK ranks second in the Global Innovation index.
Response from Government
The Government has been keen to alleviate the understandable concerns and uncertainty generated by this potential loss. The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, last month promised to underwrite the grants given to UK institutions by Horizon 2020, as long as they applied to them before Britain leaves the EU. This means that EU backed innovators won’t need to worry about having their funding cut off during the middle of their project. Some, suggest that this is the minimum that is required of the Government with Mike Galsworthy, programme director at Scientists for EU, describing it as “the bare essentials”.
There are concerns that this announcement confirms nothing about the Government’s strategy for encouraging innovation in an existence outside the EU. However, others have said that this move shows the Government’s strong commitment to supporting science and technology, an area it knows that Britain excels at.
The Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark has said that it shows that the Government is “standing squarely behind our researchers and scientists”. At any rate, this is a strong commitment to some research groups that will potentially stretch a decade into the future and so must offer some stability at a time of uncertainty.
Please also see the following video which outlines the main points discussed above: