Brexit is hurting science funding and research, campaigners warn

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BREXIT is causing ‘damage across the board’ to UK science, including missing more than £1billion in funding, campaigners have warned.

Mike Galsworthy, founder and director of the Scientists for EU group, also said the uncertainty surrounding the Northern Ireland protocol means the UK has not yet participated as planned in a key European research program which is currently in progress.

He raised his concerns at an online event called How Brexit Messed Up UK Science, organized by the European Movement in Scotland.

Galsworthy said the threat of a no-deal Brexit and uncertainty over the UK’s participation in EU programs had led to a “huge chilling effect” on investment.

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He said: “The long and short of that means by 2021, and [EU research programme] Horizon 2020 was over, we had missed some £1.5bn of funds.

“So tens of thousands of collaborations – we were 30% lower than we should have been in that time.”

Galsworthy, who has a background in science and health policy, also cited the example of the regulator European Medicines Agency (EMA), which moved from London to Amsterdam in January 2020 after Brexit.

He said: “When we were in the EU, EMA was based in London.

“There were about 900 very well paid jobs associated with that because we were doing the approvals for the whole of the single drug market, which is the second largest in the world after America.

“And there were tens of thousands of business visits a year, the overall turnover was over £300m, and there was an associated industry set up around it. We run this show.

But he added: “He went to Amsterdam and they got all this stuff and we lost all this power and prestige and tax money and talent and industry.”

Galsworthy said leaving the EU has had an impact on the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK body that approves medicines.

Last year it was announced that the agency planned to cut up to 300 jobs after Brexit.

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“Because it is now the approving body for a much smaller market, it does not have as many customs and activities as it once did when working with the EMA,” Galsworthy said.

‘Isn’t it ridiculous that just a year ago Boris Johnson was saying we had our MHRA which is so much better – then sneakily they had to downsize our excellent drug approvals agency, because we just don’t have the volume of business needs like we used to when we were in the EU.

He added: “What we see in summary so far is a lot of damage at all levels – from our universities to our academic exchanges, to our potential for collaboration, to the big companies that come here, to our anchorage in the regulatory environment in which our businesses operate. »

Galsworthy also said that because issues around the Northern Ireland protocol have not been resolved, the UK has not yet been formally accepted onto key research and innovation funding schemes such than Horizon Europe.

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“EU countries and associate member countries that buy, they all started on Horizon Europe,” he said.

“Some UK institutions started along certain lines and our government had to fund them instead of the EU because we are not fully on board.

“But many other institutions and teams are simply missing out on the first and a half years of Horizon Europe grants, as we wait to see what happens with the Northern Ireland protocol.”

The UK government has been contacted for comment.

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