In light of the result of the EU referendum, the Biochemical Society is keen to ensure that the UK government is mindful of the significant potential damage to the molecular bioscience community and to UK life science more broadly of the decision to leave the European Union.
The UK’s bioscience sector benefits the wider public, provides a significant economic contribution and remains an area of strength and competitive advantage – an independent report The British bioeconomy: An assessment of the impact of the bioeconomy on the United Kingdom economy has found that the bioeconomy in the UK provides £36.1 billion gross value added (2% of the national total) and 600,000 jobs. We would urge the government to make UK science a key priority in weighing up any options for renegotiation of our relationship with the EU.
Earlier this year we carried out an online survey gathering views on the impact of EU membership on UK molecular bioscience. The findings of the survey show that 71% of the 476 respondents considered EU funding to be essential to their research. As outlined in several recent reports, the UK is currently a net beneficiary of EU funding for research; receiving €8.8bn between 2007 and 2013. Furthermore, the importance of EU funding to research is growing, with half of the increase in UK university research budgets over this period coming from EU government sources.
In addition to funding, collaboration and networking opportunities with other researchers in the EU were also found to be key, with 87% of survey respondents considering this to be essential to their research. In the light of these findings, we urge the UK Government to ensure that both funding and opportunities for scientists to collaborate across the EU are priorities in the forthcoming negotiations. We suggest that immediate contingency plans should be put in place to protect UK bioscience from any potential damage caused as a result of the UK leaving the EU.
Finally, in light of the recent House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s report on EU regulation of the life sciences and its alternatives after leaving the EU, the Biochemical Society encourages the UK government to ensure that any research funding gaps resulting from leaving the EU would be met and the development of new regulatory frameworks (where needed) causes minimum disruption to the science community.
Professor Steve Busby, Chair of the Biochemical Society Executive Committee, said:
“The referendum result is disappointing, as membership of the EU has brought many benefits to UK science. It is important that the Government recognises the value of molecular bioscience to the UK economy and prioritises maintaining important European collaborations and alliances that can only be of benefit to the country and the research community.”
Image shows the countries that Biochemical Society survey respondents indicated as partners in scientific research. A full report on the findings of the survey on the impact of EU membership on molecular bioscience can be found on our policy page.
A collated list of resources with information relevant to the European and EU context for UK life sciences, collated by the Royal Society of Biology, is available online. You can also read the RSB statement abut the result on their website.