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Manchester Institute of Innovation Research sets out Brexit risks

The Manchester Institute of Innovation Research has set out the potentially damaging effects of Brexit in its submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee investigating the implications for science and research of the vote to leave the EU.

The Institute emphasises that ensuring the UK research system – and UK-based researchers – are not adversely effected by Brexit negotiations is likely to be both complicated and challenging, and says the priority should be to retain as full access as possible to European funding streams and research activities.

Collaboration

In the submission, the Institute points out that under any model it would be “inconceivable” that the UK would not continue to collaborate in some way with European and other international partners.

It says that UK researchers will continue to reach out to international colleagues and seek to access UK expertise and facilities, reflecting the intrinsically international nature of the research enterprise, and the strength of UK research as viewed by peers across the world.

However, without full access to and influence over the direction of the EU’s research funding streams and activities, the Institute fears the nature of this collaboration will inevitably change, with collaborative arrangements and joint funding becoming more complicated.

In its submission it says: “The broader sense that the UK is no longer open for business but has rather turned its back on European collaboration will be difficult to heal and threatens the UK’s access to global knowledge and innovation networks.”

In terms of reaching out beyond EU partnerships, the Institute acknowledges that the UK government has made great efforts to promote collaboration with the US, China, India and other emerging economies, but says none of these is a surrogate for the EU level programmes. “The nature of partnerships and networks is entirely different, and the scale of both funding and infrastructure would be impossible to replicate on a country by country basis,” it says.

Mobility

It says mobility is crucial for UK research too. “The UK must be open to talent from around the world to visit and work here so that the country can nurture, develop and absorb expertise. Retaining the high quality talent already here, and attracting new researchers, will be crucial for ensuring the stability and continued strength of UK research groups.”

However it says changes to migration policy post-Brexit will lead to a level of uncertainty for both EU and global migrants considering working in the UK. It says there is a “significant challenge” to ensure that any changes to the status of movement between the EU and the UK will not deter international flows of highly skilled labour to the UK.

Exclusion from EU programmes may impact most strongly on research fields where international collaboration is increasingly important, but which are not inherently dependent on a few major international facilities.

Influence

In the Institute’s own arena of innovation and science policy, there is much at stake. It says the UK has been a strong voice in broader debates around science and innovation policy, and to lose the opportunity to influence the broader discourse on STI (Science, Technology, Innovation) matters across Europe is likely to be detrimental to the interests of the UK in the long run.

Professor Jakob Edler, Executive Director of the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, said: “The risks of Brexit to the UK research landscape are not restricted to funding – though this is undoubtedly a major concern – but are more fundamental and cultural. We must be careful to ensure that we do not lose the people, relationships and networks which underpin the strength of UK research today on our way to the exit.”