Brexit will impact upon scientific research in the UK in a number of ways, including funding and collaboration efforts. The European Union (EU) supports a lot of the research carried out on UK soil, so any type of exit from the EU will affect the research community in the UK. A good Brexit deal will ensure the affect is as minimally detrimental as possible.

Here we take a look at specific examples of how scientific research in the UK will be affected by Brexit.

How Funding Will be Affected:

Overall, the UK’s research intensity, measured as percentage of GDP, is relatively low at 1.63% in 2013 compared to an average in the EU of 2.02%. However currently, as the UK is an EU member state, it participates in the European Research Area, meaning it contributes to the budget for programmes for research and innovation, the most recent of these being Horizon 2020. In fact, between 2007 and 2013, the UK was the second-largest recipient of research and development funding after Germany, securing €6.9 billion out of a total of €55.4 billion.

Furthermore, universities in the UK receive a disproportionate share of EU-awarded research grants. For example, in 2013 the UK received more competitive research grants from the European Research Council than any other EU country. And in 2014 – 2015, UK universities depended on the EU for about 11% of their research income on average.

Once the UK is no longer a member state, it will not be entitled to these EU structural funds. Access to this money will have to be renegotiated, and the UK government will have to compensate for any shortfalls to UK institutions, or else there will be a decrease in overall funding. If this happens, researchers may find themselves with limited funding and limited resources for their experiments. It will become important to shop around for the best priced research tools, borrow and swap research reagents with colleagues, and use lab management software to minimize waste.

How Collaboration Will be Affected:

Current EU membership means that researchers are allowed to move freely between member states and work without restriction. This will be compromised once the UK leaves the EU. Therefore, there are concerns about attracting and retaining the best talent from across the EU, which is needed in order for research in the UK to be conducted in the best way possible.

Additionally, a grassroots campaign called Scientists for EU have pointed out that EU membership has also enhanced UK global outreach, through the worldwide collaboration framework developed over the decades by the EU.  Specifically, the EU has Science and Technology Agreements with 20 countries, and is developing permanent collaborations with a further 180 countries. All this will need to be replaced by the UK once we are no longer part of the EU.

What Is Needed from a Brexit Deal:

The Royal Society have outlined what they believe is needed to facilitate the best possible outcome for research and innovation. This includes keeping highly-skilled scientists working in the UK, and encouraging international talented individuals to join us in the UK and contribute to research here.

Moreover, they believe it is crucial that the UK maintains access to the funding and networks that support us in our work with scientists across the globe, and that regulatory alignment is ensured thereby allowing access to new medicines and technologies

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