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expert reaction to the Smith-Reid Review into future frameworks for international collaboration on research and innovation

Reaction to the publication of the Smith-Reid Review “Changes and Choices” which gives advice on international partnership opportunities for UK research and innovation.


Steve Bates, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:

“Thanks to new advances in science and innovation, we are at the cusp of a new industrial revolution, however Brexit is causing much uncertainty for UK SMEs. I welcome the publication of this important review and it is good to see the Science Minister recognising the valuable contribution the life sciences sector makes in discovering new cures for life-threatening diseases.

“There are over 4,700 life sciences SMEs in the UK which are working hard to deliver new medical breakthrough to patients. As we start to build on a bold new vision for our science and innovation landscape, it is vital that life sciences SMEs form a central part of this vision.

“The review proposes new funding streams and outlines what funding options the Government could pursue in the future. The BIA has detailed proposals for how the Government can ensure future funding streams enable SMEs to leverage the maximum amount of private investment needed to meet the 2.4% R&D target.”

1. In June, the BIA published a report, Life sciences: Catalysing investment and growth, which sets out how the UK life sciences sector is driving investment and growth and makes the case for increased cost-effective public investment in the sector.


Prof Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said:

“We welcome the report and we will work in collaboration with BEIS, and with our partners from across the research and innovation sector, to consider the recommendations in detail and, where appropriate, the potential options for implementation. We also welcome the Government’s reaffirmed commitment to supporting international research and innovation collaboration and involvement in the ongoing Horizon Europe negotiations. Maintaining and strengthening our extensive international partnerships will continue to play a vital role in sustaining the UK as a world-leading research nation.”


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

“The outward facing and internationally collaborative nature of the UK’s research and innovation sector are key factors in our global success.  It is right that we review our place on the world stage but we must make sure we protect the elements that are already working well.  Association to Horizon Europe has rightly been identified by the Science Minister as the priority for ensuring we build on our international success.

“Attempting to replace Horizon Europe with domestic funding streams of similar financial value, will at best leave us standing still, and likely see us take a step backwards – with a significant dent to relationships with our European neighbours, who have been our fastest growing collaborators in recent years. As the review identified, the benefits association offers cannot be easily replicated. The sooner we end the uncertainty, which is already harming UK science, the better.” 

“The Smith–Reid review also emphasises the importance of ensuring that we can continue to attract and retain the best talent through an internationally competitive immigration system. The review looks beyond the current situation and its vision for increased investment that will benefit all parts of the UK and a greater degree of agility to capitalise on fast moving and unexpected opportunities is to be welcomed.

“The UK has a competitive edge in research and innovation – that is why we can develop top home grown talent and attract the best people and collaborations from around the world. It is that competitive advantage that will drive our economy, create jobs, and generally improve the lives of people across the UK.  It will also allow us to provide leadership on tackling global problems such as clean and sustainable energy, feeding a growing population, tackling the problems of aging societies and using genetic and digital technologies to benefit society. We look forward to seeing how the political parties will respond to this review and what their vision for the UK research and innovation sector is.  Now is a time for ambition, built upon the already robust foundations.”


Dr Beth Thompson, Head of UK/EU Policy at Wellcome, said:

“I welcome the call for an ambitious new vision for UK science. At the heart of this must be association to the EU Framework Programmes because of their wide-ranging benefits.

“It’s sensible to be prepared in case association isn’t possible, but the review shows how difficult it would be to set up a competitive UK equivalent, especially in time for January 2021.

“Collaborating with Europe and building a broader international strategy are not mutually exclusive. We can do both, and we look forward to working with the Government and the research community to build on the ambitious ideas in the review.”


Prof Arne Akbar, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“The UK is a world-leader in scientific research, with particular excellence in areas such as immunology and genomics, and we must go all out to maintain this status in the long-term, which will drive our economy and lead to new life-changing and life-saving innovations both in medical and other sectors. Associating the UK with Horizon Europe after Brexit is always going to be the preferential choice of the scientific community, both for the funding it provides but also crucially for the international networks and collaborations that it generates, which are so important for driving forward innovative, cutting-edge research.

“We’re pleased to see that today’s publication of the Smith–Reid Review recognises the importance of our association with Horizon Europe, but also explores alternatives options should this not be possible.  Of particular importance are the new funding stream options presented, recognition that substantial support of basic research is needed and that international networks need to be preserved and built on. However, as the review highlights, significant levels of planning are needed before the UK would be in a position to implement any of these initiatives and it’s key that work is started now on this to ensure an uninterrupted workstream should we not associate with Horizon Europe.

“For scientific endeavour to flourish, we need long-term stability in funding and networks to oversee the meticulous and precise scientific studies, which often take years to come to fruition. Immunology shares with other branches of science an in-built internationalism that must continue to thrive, whatever the political climate.”


Dr Sarah Main, Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), said:

“Collaboration is the fuel of scientific discovery and innovation, and it is done across borders. Therefore it is vital that international collaborations are sustained and grown to ensure the UK remains a partner of choice for research and innovation, including with the EU. 

“I welcome the Government’s attention on this subject and the depth of consideration given to it in the report.

“The next Government must ensure that, whatever the outcome of the Brexit process, that the UK remains a partner of choice for international collaborations, including in EU research programmes.”


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

“As our relationship with the EU changes, it is right to think carefully about how the UK can maintain and extend our European and global networks. I continue to believe that the best way to protect our leading role in collaborative international research is to achieve the closest possible association to Horizon Europe.

“One fear about a post-Brexit UK is that we will miss out on valuable relationships with our continental neighbours so I am pleased that the Smith-Reid report emphasises the need to protect and sustain research networks with Europe, our most frequent and fastest growing collaborator. The biomedical sciences sector has sent a clear and consistent message that associating to Horizon Europe would be the best way to do this. The Government should therefore act swiftly to make funds available to achieve this goal, providing reassurance to the sector as well as giving patients and the public access to the best outcomes from scientific research.

“The Smith-Reid review provides some additional creative ideas about how to strengthen the UK’s international research collaboration and I look forward to working with Government and the research community to consider how these recommendations should be taken forward to enhance the global position for the UK.”


Prof John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, University College London (UCL), said:

This reminds me of the TV show about how to prepare to survive nuclear war


Prof John Womersley, Director-General, European Spallation Source (and Chief Executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council 2011-16), said:

“It’s great to see this report now released, and its recommendations are extremely timely given the general election.  I’m slightly disappointed that some of the more exciting and visionary ideas hinted at earlier by the authors, such as creating a UK-initiated international research council, didn’t make it to the final version, but I understand how that can happen.  Nonetheless the report presents a cogent and well-argued analysis.  I hope the science community can support much of what’s in here and doesn’t instinctively react negatively to the possibility that the UK may need to explore alternatives to association to Horizon Europe.  As the authors make clear, association remains the government’s policy.”


Declared interests

The nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it.  So our policy is not to ask for interests to be declared, instead they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.

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