UK seeks to strengthen research collaboration following Brexit

The UK wants to continue playing a major role in creating a brighter future for all European citizens by strengthening collaboration with European partners in science and innovation after Brexit.


This is one of the conclusions from a paper published today that outlines Britain’s objectives for ‘an ambitious science and innovation agreement with the EU’ following Brexit.

The paper highlights projects where the UK is working with EU and non-EU nations in furthering research into areas that include space, nuclear fusion, and medicine and suggests the potential merit in ‘designing a more ambitious agreement’ that should be broad and make room for new areas of research.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “This paper sends a clear message to the research and innovation community that we value their work and we feel it is crucial that we maintain collaboration with our European partners after we exit.”

In reference to the UK’s vitality in international research, the paper states that the share of EU co-authored publications in the top ten per cent of highly cited publications is higher when collaborating with the UK. It further added that freedom of movement will cease to apply in Britain, but that exceptions would be made for suitably qualified researchers and that ‘migration between the UK and the EU will continue after the UK leaves the EU.’

“It is vital we ensure research communities can continue to access the high level skills that support the science and innovation sector,” said science minister Jo Johnson. “From space exploration and developing better and safer medicines, to nuclear fusion research, the UK and Europe has a long history of close collaboration to meet the world’s great challenges. It’s in our mutual benefit to maintain this successful partnership.”

The report concludes that the ‘UK would welcome dialogue with the EU on the shape of a future science and innovation agreement, reflecting our joint interest in promoting continued close cooperation, for the benefit of UK and European prosperity.’

Commenting on the report, 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.”

Also responding to the government paper, Scientists for EU said: “We find the position paper to be enthusiastic and impressive on documentation of the current state of UK-EU science. It is also good and entirely expected that the UK wishes to maintain the maximum possible relationship with the EU and European partners in science. However, the government’s paper is utterly devoid of any suggestions for bridging Brexit obstacles and developing this partnership into the future. Given the title of “A Future Partnership Paper” – this is ironic.”