Science and technology sectors worried by Brexit

Prominent Remain supporter Sir Paul Nurse says the Brexit result was a poor one for British science and will be “bad for Britain”.

“Science thrives on the permeability of ideas and people, and flourishes in environments that pool intelligence, minimise barriers and are open to free exchange and collaboration,” he added.

Current president of the Royal Society chemist Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan said: “Many global challenges can only be tackled by countries working together. We need to continue to welcome researchers and students from abroad.”

TechUK, which representing more than 900 UK companies, said the result opens up many uncertainties about the future. “Tech companies will need to come together and speak with one voice to ensure their needs are understood and acted upon,” it said in a statement.

Mike Thompson, CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “This creates immediate challenges for future investment, research and jobs in our industry in the UK. With that being the case, we are committed to working closely with the government to agree what steps need to be taken to send a strong signal that the UK is open for business.”

Dame Julia Goodfellow, the president of Universities UK, said: “Our first priority will be to convince the UK government to takes steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities,”

“We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight – there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy,” she added. “Throughout the transition period our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook, internationally networked and an attractive destination for talented people from across Europe. These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world.”

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology, said it will vital to recognise the importance of UK science and scientists when the terms of Brexit are considered. “It is well proven that research and the biosciences are a key engine for sustainable growth and public benefit for the UK. It is essential that in our next set of economic and policy decisions we keep that in clear view and ensure that good science and research community advice is effectively heard.

“Science by its very nature is a collaboration. Strong research partnerships with EU-based scientists will continue to be essential for the UK. Ease of exchange and movement of people will remain critical. We must ensure that research currently enabled by EU funding can continue, and we must reassure the brightest and best researchers and students that the rights they have now will continue.”

CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main said: “This outcome provides a real challenge for our sector. Science is an area where the relationship between the UK and the EU was particularly beneficial. Not least because scientists won billions of pounds of research funding for the UK above and beyond what we put in. In addition, free movement of people in the EU made it easy for scientists to travel, collaborate and share ideas with the best in Europe and for companies and universities in the UK to easily access top talent from Europe.

“Many scientists and engineers will be disappointed. The sector consistently showed huge support for EU membership. Our sector is facing great change with the Higher Education and Research bill currently going through Parliament. And leaving the EU will no doubt have huge additional impact on our universities and research businesses.

“Science is one of the UK’s great strengths and works to keep us at the forefront of health, wellbeing and innovation. It is therefore vital that science is on the table when the difficult and myriad political decisions that follow are made, from immigration policy to regulation, in order to support a thriving science and engineering sector in the UK. CaSE will play our part to ensure that they do.”