Protecting UK’s global research position is key priority

Protecting and strengthening the UK’s leading international position in a globally competitive research and innovation environment is a top priority outlined in a new report for UK Government, co-authored by UCL’s Professor Graeme Reid.

The  independent report , ’Changes and Choices: Advice on future frameworks for international collaboration on research and innovation’ commissioned by the Minister of State for Universities. Research and Innovation, sets out new opportunities for the UK to extend its international collaborations.

The report, authored by Professor Graeme Reid (UCL Chair of Science & Research Policy) and Professor Sir Adrian Smith (The Alan Turing Institute), provides a range of principles and ideas, setting out potential opportunities for the UK to extend its international collaborations globally and strengthen current partnerships, including options in the event the UK does not stay fully part of European funding programmes.

The findings are based on a call for evidence which received over 130 responses from businesses, institutions and individuals around the UK, as well as discussions with Government at ministerial and official levels.

Professor Graeme Reid said: "We outline exciting new ideas for the UK to extend its international partnership but it’s important not to overlook our top priority - protecting and stabilising the capabilities that the UK has built up through decades of participation in EU programmes.

"The recent creation of UKRI; the government’s commitment to raise overall levels of R&D investment in the UK to at least 2.4% of GDP; and high levels of international R&D activity in business, research institutes and universities make it timely to review current arrangements with a view to developing a bold new vision for UK research and innovation."

The authors recommend that Brexit is used as a stimulus for an exciting new vision for the UK. They propose a focus on the Government’s commitments to raise overall levels of research and design investment, to reduce regional disparities in wealth and opportunity and to work towards a new global position for the UK.

Key proposals include:

  • protecting and enhancing the UK’s science, research and innovation base, including through building research and development (R&D) capacity across the UK
  • increasing the agility of research funding to react to new and unexpected international opportunities
  • striding towards the government’s commitment to increase R&D investment to at least 2.4% of GDP by 2027 including attracting foreign direct investment to the UK
  • developing a Global Talent Strategy to attract and retain a wide range of scientific talent in the UK
  • introducing a flagship programme of research fellowships offering large rewards over long periods of time for exceptional researchers, across all disciplines
  • creating a new, stand-alone public body that would manage most or all of the new funds, becoming a ’champion’ for international collaboration

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: "The UK is a global science superpower, and this deserved reputation helps deliver real economic and social benefits right across the country.

"International collaboration allows the UK to work at a greater scale than we could do alone, with unique partnerships from helping find new cures for life-threatening diseases to developing cleaner transport.

"Participating in Horizon programmes opens the door for businesses and research institutions to work with our European partners on the next big breakthroughs. But we should also be looking beyond Europe and seeking new relationships around the world.

"The publication of Sir Adrian Smith and Professor Graeme Reid’s report provides independent advice which we will consider carefully. Their work will inform our thinking and help support our continued ambition to be at the cutting-edge of research and innovation."

Government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance said: "Research and innovation are essential for economic growth and to help tackle societal challenges and opportunities. As this report makes clear, international collaboration is absolutely fundamental to the strength of the UK’s research and innovation sector and always has been.

"The report focuses on what options there could be in the event that the UK does not stay fully part of the European funding system. It makes an important contribution in identifying how the UK could maintain and build on close relationships with our partners in Europe and around the world."

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