Article 50: What next for medical science?

As the Government triggers Article 50, the Academy of Medical Sciences calls for action to ensure leaving the European Union does not damage UK research and innovation.

The Academy  has also joined the UK's other six National Academies in a statement calling for Higher Education, Research and Innovation to remain a priority in this Government's plans as we prepare to leave the EU.

 In addition, Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences commented:

“Leaving the EU will have a significant impact on UK science and research. We are calling for positive action to ensure the UK remains a global leader in research and development. This action must focus on the four Ps that define our sector’s relationship with the EU – people, pounds, partnerships and permissions.


“We need to give confidence and security to the 17% of academic staff in UK universities that are EU nationals. We also need to ensure talented individuals can cross borders, allowing us to continue to benefit from our proximity and close ties with European science and scientists.


“Government commitment to increase research spend in the Autumn statement was welcome, but the UK still lags behind France, Germany, Japan, the US and Finland in proportion of GDP spent on research and development.  If we are to remain a global player in science we need to aim for a 3% GDP spend for research and development.


“Science is a global enterprise, and the excellence of UK research depends on international collaboration. The fact that 60% of the UK’s internationally co-authored research papers are with EU partners shows the importance of this relationship. We will need to find new ways to retain our competitive edge in terms of collaboration with European researchers post-Brexit.


“Many aspects of medical and health research are currently governed by EU legislation, from clinical trials, to the regulation of medicines and medical devices, to animal research. For our research to continue to have an impact internationally, we will need to harmonise much of our regulation with that of Europe, at least initially. We should do this carefully, because there may also be opportunity to intelligently streamline some processes.”

The Academy of Medical Sciences has set out our priorities for Brexit in our the joint Academy Open for Business report, and in our submissions to inquiries such as the Commons Exiting the EU Select Committee inquiry into 'UK's negotiating objectives for withdrawal from EU inquiry'.

Find out more about our policy work on to support Brexit negotiations here.


Key facts on UK research and the EU

  • Between 2007 and 2013 the UK received €8.8bn EU funding for research, development and innovation activities
  • In 2015, over half of the UK’s research output was the result of an international collaboration
  • Currently, 60% of the UK’s internationally co-authored research papers are with EU partners
  • 17% of the total academic staff in UK universities were non-UK EU nationals in 2015/16 (more than 33,000). This rises to 23% in biological, mathematical & physical sciences
  • 14% of PhD students at UK Higher Education Institutes were non-UK EU nationals in 2014/15 (around 12,000)
  • Nearly 72% of UK-based researchers spent time at non-UK institutions between 1996 and 2012


References (all accessed in 2017):

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