Now we are in post-Brexit UK, the scientific community’s original fears may prove unfounded as funding soars under Theresa May’s reign.
In the fallout from the UK’s referendum to leave the EU, scientists in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were understandably concerned.
With the top six UK universities alone involved in H2020 projects worth almost €500m, uncertainty in the scientific sector was natural.
However, now five months down the line, some of those fears might be proving a little unfounded.
Many questions were asked at the time of the referendum result. Will the EU pull funding? What will it mean for the projects? What will it mean for the researchers? Where will the projects be transferred to?
It seems the UK’s response to this is to spend, and spend big.
Prime Minister Theresa May today (21 November) told the Confederation of British Industry that her government will create a £2bn annual fund for scientific research and development, as well as a review of tax incentives for innovative corporations, in an effort to boost the technology industry.
“Today, Britain has firms and researchers leading in some of the most exciting fields of human discovery. We need to back them and turn research strengths into commercial success,” she said.
“That means not only investing more in research and development, but ensuring we invest that money wisely, supporting technologies and sectors that have the potential to deliver long-term benefits for Britain.”
This follows similarly promising news in Wales in recent weeks, where a number of institutes set out mass hiring plans to bolster the region’s scientific armoury.
The Welsh government’s 2012 Sêr Cymru initiative has seen up to £110m (£50m before last year) poured into the scientific community, aiming to bring prestigious research chairs to Welsh universities.
It also aims to support national research centres operating in life sciences, low carbon, energy, advanced engineering and materials fields.
The latter part of the funding (£60m announced at the end of 2015) is targeted at boosting research capacity by offering fellowships. Throughout the whole Sêr Cymru initiative, 30 scientists and 120 fellows will be recruited.
This, added to May’s focus on science, is good news for the industry in the UK.
“Our competitors aren’t standing still,” she said of EU countries’ separate scientific activities. “They are investing heavily in research and development.”
The UK is, too.
British Prime Minister Theresa May. Image: Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock