Most of us in business and academia are trying to be positive and find a way forward through this Brexit uncertainty – to best prosper outside of the EU. Today, I spoke at the European Open Science Forum (#ESOF16) on UK Science after #Brexit.
The importance of Science must be placed as a key priority in the Brexit negotiations and today, in my speech, I focused on four priorities to help us retain confidence.
(i) We must send a very strong signal and work hard to ensure we stay part of collaborative EU science programmes like Horizon 2020. With that we should stop any pause to UK participation in these programmes, which some evidence suggests is beginning to happen (although at Siemens I’m pleased that we have not seen this happening yet).
(ii) In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement for us to see a strong prioritisation for Science and R&D. There should be a committment to cover more than the £850m / year science funding shortfall from the EU in whatever mechanism is agreed as our EU Science participation after Brexit.
(iii) To counter balance this period of Brexit uncertainty with the creation of a plan between Government and Business to drive up gross R&D from the current 1.7% of GDP to greater than 3.0% over the next decade. This should be a key part of the new Industrial Strategy, Prime Minister Theresa May has committed us to creating.
(iv) We must send a very strong signal that scientists and engineers working and living here are welcome to stay for as long as they wish in whatever immigration system might emerge post Brexit. This is of course not the intended end point, which must allow much broader free movement of people for work, but it’s an obvious starting point given the skills shortages in this space.
My final observation was that we must send a very strong message to those Brexiteers who still think there is a battle to be won. We are now all in this together and I’d like to now see much more coming together on how we want to retain and strengthen our science, innovation and engineering base post Brexit.
And the other point we need to unite on fast, is a strong campaign to root out racism and xenophobia so that those working here, who are currently fed up of the negative Brexit rhetoric and are eying up lovely engineering and science jobs elsewhere, change their mind and stay – like most of us in Britain want them to.
I was horrified to speak to Scientists at ESOF who have been targets of this type of verbal xenophopic abuse, that the Brexit campaign sadly amplified, and we all now have a responsibility to eradicate it.