Brexit renews focus on science and innovation

03 November 2016

The possible challenges and opportunities resulting from Britain’s exit from the EU have led to an increased focus on the role science and innovation should play in the industrial strategy that the Government is keen to promote.

Last week, in the London Evening Standard, Bill Gates acknowledged the huge contribution made by British scientists, inventors, and industrialists. Describing the UK as ‘a research superpower’, he listed the exciting new work being produced across the country and announced that the Gates Foundation would ‘co-fund new research grants to scientists and organisations working to develop and increase the adoption of new agricultural technologies. These will build resilience to climate change, diseases and pests, and increase the productivity of farmers across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.’

That same day, Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson promised that the Government will not ‘dip into the ringfence’ of the allocated science budget to underwrite EU funding and assured the Science and Technology Committee that the Government was working hard to ensure the UK science community would be a priority in the exit negotiations.

A report in October from IPPR, the progressive think tank, emphasised the particular importance to the northern economy of the advanced manufacturing, energy, and health innovation sectors, reiterating the need for proper support for these industries as the UK exits the EU.

As a long-standing promoter of the value of science and innovation to business and industry, SCI welcomes the attention being paid to this crucial area. Science and innovation are integral to the UK’s efforts both to safeguard its future success and to meet the challenges of the future. SCI will continue to consider answers to some of the questions around this issue, such as:

  • How do we remain a competitive place to establish, invest in, and grow science-based businesses, both start-ups and established companies?
  • How do we encourage and retain STEM graduates?
  • How do we overcome the challenges of energy provision, efficient infrastructure, financial incentives, and access to the best talent and skills to ensure the necessary environment to support science-based business?
  • How do we ensure the best platform for science and innovation to meet future global challenges such as food production, the internet of things, sustainable energy supply, and global health and wellbeing?

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