Higher Education, Research & Innovation After Triggering Article 50

The RSE has joined other National Academies in the UK and Ireland[1] to issue a statement on higher education, research and innovation now that Article 50 has been triggered.

Recognising that innovation is vital for the UK’s growth, prosperity and influence—and that higher education and research underpins this—the Academies stress that enhancing the UK’s world-leading research, innovation and higher education systems must remain a key priority for the UK Government.

The Academies call for action in 4 areas to ensure that the UK continues to be one of the best places globally for research and innovation:

The UK Government should safeguard the ability of UK institutions to retain and employ EU innovation, research and higher education staff after the UK leaves the EU. Additionally, in order to retain a competitive environment in which to recruit talented researchers, a right to remain should be provided to all EU staff and their dependants, employed in the UK at the time of the departure from the EU.

The UK Government should continue to fully participate in projects such as Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 until their completion and close association with future European programmes should be fostered.

A target of 3% of GDP should be set for combined public and private R&D spending. Scotland’s universities and research institutes are successful in attracting public sector R&D investment (0.92% of GDP in 2014)[2] above the UK (0.55%) and OECD (0.68%) averages. However the overall investment in R&D in Scotland is only 1.6% against the OECD average of 2.4%. An environment which encourages greater private sector investment in UK research and innovation should be cultivated.

The mutual recognition of professional qualifications should be preserved between the UK and EU Member States.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of the RSE said, “Now that Article 50 has been triggered, the National Academies urge the UK Government to commit to championing world class higher education, research and innovation in the UK by putting measures in place to ensure that the UK remains open to the world, welcoming talented people from Europe and further afield.”


[1] The Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, The Royal Society, Royal Irish Academy, The Learned Society of Wales
[2] Gross Investment in R&D Scotland 2014 Tables