Exiting the Eu: Science and Research

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 19th December 2016.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education) 6:30 pm, 19th December 2016

Our universities are successful in winning European funding bids. In fact, we have the top four slots of all European institutions, in Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and University College London—[Interruption.]—in terms of the share of participations. That underscores the strengths of our university system and we want them to continue to be able to bid successfully for as long as we are members of the European Union.

We want that level of economic benefit to continue long after we leave the EU, which is why we are setting up the industrial strategy challenge fund. It will back priority technologies such as robotics and biotechnology where, just as in the space sector, the UK has the potential to turn research strengths into a global, industrial and commercial lead. Although our research and innovation system is world leading, we are working to ensure that it stays that way by being even more effective. That is why we are implementing Sir Paul Nurse’s recommendation that we should establish a single strategic research and innovation funding body—UK Research and Innovation —which will be a strong and unified voice, championing UK research and innovation nationally and internationally.

The EU is, of course, important for the UK’s research base, but it is not the only game in town. The UK was a place of learning before many of the EU’s member states even existed. Some of our universities have been centres of research excellence for nearly a millennium. The UK will, of course, continue to play a leading role in major, non-EU research collaborations that take place here—from CERN in Switzerland, to the European Space Agency. We are a major partner in the new Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope, whose global headquarters will be based at Jodrell Bank. In the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, it was UK researchers, working with their counterparts, who made the dramatic gravitational waves discovery possible.

All that said, it will, of course, not be lost on many hon. Members that there are many valuable interactions between UK and EU scientific institutions. We work closely with our European neighbours on issues that affect our planet as well as everyone on it.