UK faces ‘brain drain’ as scientists leave UK to avoid losing EU research funds | UK News
A total of 22 UK-based scientists have now decided to leave the UK rather than lose their EU research funding amid uncertainty about the future of post-Brexit research and development (R&D) support.
Scientists and engineers have told Sky News that the UK’s position as the world’s leading research company is at risk from a “significant brain drain” amid doubts as to what the funding will replace after negotiations European Union stalled.
The UK is negotiating to remain in the EU’s £84 billion Horizon Europe funding programme.
However, Brussels is refusing to resume talks until further notice Brexit-related disagreements such as Northern Ireland are solved.
If this fails, the government has committed to doubling the EU funding already awarded to any researchers who have already received grants.
However, as many existing research programs are EU-wide, this promise is not enough for some researchers.
“Nobody told me I had to go, but it wasn’t a welcoming environment,” said Moritz Treeck, who leads a team studying malaria at the Francis Crick Institute in London.
“I didn’t want to face the uncertainty of this research grant’s condition of staying in the UK and the impact it would have on all the people I hire.”
Treeck, originally from Germany, says the opportunities offered by working in British academia are “huge”. But now the situation is different.
“To say you want to build an economy and become an international superpower and then look inward… I think that’s a step back, not a step forward,” he said.
Researchers who have no intention of leaving the UK say the Horizon funding impasse also undermines the UK’s longstanding leadership in international collaborations.
Professor Carsten Welsch is Head of the Physics Department at the University of Liverpool and is leading a program to develop new particle accelerators to replace the likes of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva.
He recently had to hand over part of his Horizon-funded project to a staff member in Italy, as UK institutions can no longer take a lead role in the programme.
His concern is that the UK’s standing in other, much larger collaborations – such as particle accelerators – will be undermined.
“If you don’t have the leadership role in this multi-million pound or euro project, how likely is it that you have the same leadership role in this much, much larger international project?” he said.
The longer the uncertainty lasts, the greater the risks, argues Baroness Brown of Cambridge Julia King, Chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.
In a worst-case scenario, she said: “I think we’re going to see a brain drain of our brightest talent going abroad. I think we’re going to see more of our best tech-based companies finding it easier to scale their funding overseas to get listed on US stock exchanges rather than the UK.
“It won’t hit the UK economy immediately, but it will have a significant impact in the medium to long term,” she said.
In a statement, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The UK Government continues to favor association with EU programs but we cannot wait for the EU much longer.
“Successful award winners do not have to leave the UK – the Horizon Europe guarantee means that eligible, successful applicants receive the full value of their grant at their UK host institution.”
Under Boris Johnson The government pledged to double UK research funding to 24% of GDP by 2025.
However, some experts are concerned that Prime Minister Liz Truss‘ Spending plans may lead to money cuts to cover the EU deficit.
“As they watch for low-hanging fruit for spending cuts, the $6 billion