MPs Urge Government To Protect Science And Tech EU Funding

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Chair of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee tells Chancellor it is essential the UK has access to EU research grants and overseas talent

Chancellor George Osborne has been urged to ensure that public and private sector research is not hampered by any end to the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) by the chair of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee.

Nicola Blackwood said the UK received more EU money for science and technology research than it contributed, receiving 15 percent of all funds available from the EU’s Horizon-2020 initiative – second only to Germany.

Earlier this week, IT industry body BCS warned that universities and research labs faced an €8.8bn funding shortfall if the UK does leave the EU. One way of achieving this, Blackwood claimed, was to ensure the UK remained in the European single market.

Read More: What does Brexit mean for tech?

EU research grants

AWS“The UK has been a net receiver of EU research funding and it is important that we maintain our access to EU research grants,” she wrote. “Some associated countries have been able to maintain access to Horizon-2020 funding, but the government will need to learn from the cautionary tale of Switzerland, whose access to Horizon-2020 was much restricted after it curtailed the free movement of people, undermining the country’s science sector.”

The Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon added that the government should ensure private sector investment is stmulated during what could be an extended period of uncertainty following the Brexit vote.

She also wanted assurances from Osborne that UK research projects would have the same access to talent that they have enjoyed in the past as any EU immigration regulations could make it harder to attract the best minds to the UK.

Migration assistance

“The UK has also benefited from scientists, researchers and students coming to work in the UK from other parts of the EU and from further afield,” added Blackwood. “Whatever migration policies are now put in place, we must remain an attractive place to do research.

“I would be grateful if you could set your thoughts out on how the government can make it absolutely clear that the UK remains open and welcoming to such fundamentally important contributors to our research base, our economy and our country.”

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has also issued a statement following the vote, promising to support the sectors under the remit of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the government’s ambition to implement measures announced in the Queen’s Speech.

This includes the Digital Economy Act, which made provisions for a 10Mbps universal service obligation for broadband and reforms to the Electronic Communications Code.

“DCMS will work closely with all of our sectors to make sure they have a voice as we now prepare for a negotiation to exit the EU,” he declared. “We will also continue working to deliver our agenda and take forward the important legislation that we set before Parliament in the Queen’s Speech.”

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