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expert reaction to the Department for Exiting the European Union’s upcoming paper on science

In a new position paper, to be published later today, the government will lay out a range of options for continued scientific collaboration between the UK and the EU.


Prof Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, said:

“It is very good that the government’s position paper on science has recognised the importance of maintaining strong science links with the EU, links which have been put in jeopardy because of Brexit. The present strong science base in the UK is needed to drive improvements in our health, wellbeing and prosperity, as has been recognised by government. However, maintaining our strengths in research will require further significant increases in the UK science budget post-Brexit, given that the UK receives well over half a billion pounds each year more from the EU for research than we pay in. The highest quality research also depends on international mobility of the best scientists, and the leak of Home Office discussion documents indicating future immigration barriers and increased bureaucracy puts the standing of UK science at risk.”


Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, said:

“We’re pleased that the Government is seeking an ambitious deal for UK science post Brexit. I hope that the intention to continue partnering with and paying in to European research funding programmes sends a positive message to our negotiating partners in Europe.

“Today is an encouraging start, but the government urgently needs to give the scientific community much greater clarity. Uncertainty over eligibility for grants after March 2019 is already having detrimental effect on UK science. We also need a straightforward immigration system for scientists at all levels, from lab technicians to Nobel Prize winners.

“A strong and unambiguous deal, which guarantees continuing ties with other leading researchers in Europe, would be real and tangible progress and could act as a template for other sectors.”


Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Policy, said:

“Collaboration is essential in science so we’re pleased that this principle is central to the Government’s approach to negotiations. When scientists from the UK and the EU work together they have greater impact, particularly in medical research, which ultimately benefits patients across the EU and beyond.

“Over a quarter of Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials involve an European partner. This is important for trials testing new treatments for rare or childhood cancers where studies require a pan-EU approach. So it’s critical that our ability to participate and lead international research projects is upheld as negotiations on our future relationship with the EU continue. Clear priorities must be an aligned regulatory system for clinical trials, and an immigration system that attracts global scientific talent and supports collaboration.”


Prof. John Womersley, Director-General of the European Spallation Source, said:

“The document says many positive things.  The aspiration of achieving an ambitious science agreement between Britain and the EU is absolutely correct.  But the paper is so lacking implementation details that it will probably disappoint most of the science community rather than reassure them. Having the right goals is a good start; but knowing how to get them is also essential.”


BIA CEO Steve Bates & ABPI CEO Mike Thompson said:

“Continuing their pragmatic approach to secure the future of the UK’s life science sector, this latest position paper features many very positive ambitions for the future. As the Commission’s own research has recognised, citizens across the whole of Europe benefit from the way UK and European scientists and researchers collaborate; helping find new ways to tackle health challenges we all face.

“Continued cooperation in research, a smooth transition for the regulation of medicines, and practical solutions for trade and talent will be essential to delivering the best outcome for patients in both the UK and the EU.

“Talent drives the strength, depth and quality of UK science, so, securing the continued mobility of UK and EU scientists would be the next logical and crucial step. These scientists have an important role to play in the future health, well-being and economic prosperity of Europe.

“As the paper recognises, “drug development is a global business” and with timeframes getting tighter by the day, it’s essential that progress is delivered through negotiations with the EU to give industry confidence that UK and Europe will continue to be one of the best places in the word for developing and delivering the very best breakthroughs in medicine.”


Prof Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said:

“The UK scientific community fully supports the need for an ambitious agreement with the EU for science, and we welcome the paper being launched today.

“This paper helps to clarify the Government’s desire to maintain collaboration with EU research and to retain access to EU research funding. Association with the future framework programmes would be mutually beneficial for EU and UK research, ultimately delivering the best outcomes for patients and citizens at home and abroad. Our sector has called for the ‘closest possible association’ to future framework programmes and I am glad to see that the government has listened. However, we need to see further detail and clarity as soon as possible to provide the certainties the sector requires.

“Nevertheless, it is important to stress that funding is only one part of the picture. Arguably the most important factor in determining the strength of UK science is our ability to recruit and retain the brightest and best minds and to collaborate effectively across borders.

“In addition, in a post-Brexit era we will need a regulatory system that facilitates collaboration between the UK and Europe across discovery science, clinical trials and beyond, and ensures that patients continue to benefit from new discoveries.

“We will need clarity on all aspects of the ecosystem as quickly as possible to ensure UK science and innovation does not suffer.


Dr Sarah Main, Executive Director of CaSE, said:

“Collaboration with the EU is a huge asset to UK science, so Brexit poses considerable risks to the UK’s research networks and joint programmes as well as to funding streams. It is good to see the Government making science a priority in the negotiations and indicating that all options are on the table, including a bespoke ‘ambitious’ agreement.”

“However, on the day that draft migration plans have been reported in the press, the Government must realise that successful scientific collaboration with the EU requires an immigration system to match. Immigration is one of the top concerns of scientific businesses and universities for whom it is vital to be able to recruit talented people to work and study in the UK. Their concern applies to the full spectrum of talent, from specialist technicians and researchers at the start of their career, to professors and CEOs at the top of the pile. The criteria of salary and skills that are considered in the leaked document could lead to swathes of scientists and engineers being cut off from entering the UK. The Government must create a migration system that supports its ambitions for Britain’s future, which the Prime Minister has said requires global science and innovation leadership.”


Aisling Burnand MBE, chief executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities said:

“This is a welcome signal from Government that the sector’s voice has been heard and understood. International collaboration through EU funding programmes and schemes has been, and remains, vital for medical research. And ultimately for patients -particularly those with a rare disease.

“Now we need clear detail on our future relationship with Horizon 2020, including the Innovative Medicines Initiative, and successor programmes. As well as continued involvement the UK must continue to be a voice round the table to shape the direction and priorities of these schemes. Government must deliver on this, and fast.

“As negotiations continue to determine the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the deal reached must not negatively impact patients – in the UK and across the EU. This means patients must be able to continue to participate in vital pan-EU clinical trials; have speedy access to new medical innovations; and crucially, experience no disruption in the supply of medicines and treatments. Patient safety must not be compromised. Today’s announcement of the Government position, including the aim for future collaboration with the European Medicines Agency,  is an important step towards ensuring that this is achieved.

“But we cannot become complacent. The science community urgently requires clarification on the status of EU nationals in the UK. Uncertainty about the status of research and healthcare professionals in the UK is damaging the UK’s reputation and attractiveness as a place to do research. We look forward to hearing that the Government has addressed this issue.”


Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said:

“The Government have clearly recognised the many benefits to being a part of EU research and innovation and why the UK should seek a very close relationship after Brexit.  The paper is very encouraging in both its tone and aspirations for an ambitious agreement to continue our close relationship with EU science and is very welcome.

“However, this is just a first step and much work needs to be done to work out the conditions that ensure our continued close collaboration with the EU.  That is necessary to dispel the uncertainty that continues to pose a threat to our position as a global scientific power.

“Rapid progress including a financial commitment to Horizon 2020 until its end and guarantees about the status of the highly skilled EU researchers already working here must be delivered soon.  We also need to commit to being part of the next EU research programme and be part of discussions to shape it.  We have to implement an immigration system that can attract the brightest and best minds to the UK, and a regulatory system that promotes seamless collaboration.

“Science has always transcended national borders and there is a real will on all sides to ensure that Brexit does not hinder that.  The intent expressed by the Government can provide the basis to strike what can be a win-win outcome that could set a positive tone for negotiations on other issues.”


Prof. Lord Martin Rees, Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, said:

“It’s somewhat reassuring that European scientific collaborations are on David Davis’s radar. But even if we continued to participate at current funding levels, this wouldn’t neutralise the serious downsides of Brexit for UK science, medicine, and high-tech industry. Colleagues from mainland Europe will perceive us as less welcoming. And they will be less inclined to take jobs here — and build lives here — if there is no longer free movement.”


Prof. John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, UCL, said:

“There are two issues in science funding.  Amount of funding and diversity of supply of money.

“The trouble about this solution is that we “lose” EU funding and effectively increase UK funding… but that means we will bounce up and down with the UK economy much more directly.”



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