Brexit, Science and Innovation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:51 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Sam Gyimah Sam Gyimah Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Higher Education), Minister of State (Education) 2:51 pm, 6th September 2018

I thank Norman Lamb and the Select Committee for their report, which was published in March. I welcome its recommendations. A lot has happened since March, so while I would like to take the opportunity to respond to the points that were made in the report, I will also give reassurances in terms of developments since it was published.

The world is changing and the world of science is changing. For the UK to remain at the forefront of scientific research and endeavour, we need to invest financially, but we also need to be open to collaboration. The best science is done internationally and through collaboration. The best science is not just about curiosity and blue-skies thinking; the best science affects us in our day-to-day lives. In terms of our collaboration with the EU, from the development of an Ebola vaccine to the discovery of graphene, the toughest material ever tested, the partnerships we have built with the EU have led to life-changing discoveries.

It is heartening to know that the UK plays a vital role in this landscape. Since 2014, UK researchers and innovators have been awarded 15% of all Horizon 2020 funds—about £4 billion—and we have co-ordinated about 20% of all projects. From the Euratom research and training programme, the UK receives about 17% of its annual budget. The UK also hosts the most advanced nuclear fusion reactor on behalf of the EU.

The Government are not only putting their money where their mouth is on science, with this country’s highest ever investment in public R&D, we are determined to be a top collaborator with the EU and the world in future. Currently, the EU is our biggest collaborative partner. We are a top-five partner with each of the EU member states and the EU as a whole. We are working to make sure that that remains so. That is why we want to agree an ambitious science and innovation accord with the EU, one which facilitates the exchange of researchers and ideas along with allowing for UK participation in EU research programmes, including the successor to Horizon 2020—Horizon Europe—and Euratom research and training.

The Opposition spokesperson, Chi Onwurah, said that Labour has committed to associate with Horizon Europe. Not only have this Government committed to doing so, but we have published our intentions in a position paper and we are actively in discussions to make this happen.