A science and engineering perspective on the decision to ‘stay in’ or ‘exit’ the EU

Written by: Dr Rod Wilson | Published:
Dr Rod Wilson, director of engineering at Trolex

The future of the Science and Engineering sector of UK Plc is critical to the future of the UK economy and I believe that the decision to exit or stay in the EU on June 23rd could well be critical to that future.

Having spent the last 25 years working in UK Science and Engineering, initially at Smiths Detection in the Military and Security sectors and more recently at Trolex in Mining, Oil and Gas and Rail sectors I believe there is a strong case to stay in the EU.

Success in Science and Engineering is dependent on a number of factors, but these include access to the best talent, access to markets, access to information, access to funding and importantly, a culture of co-operation and sharing of ideas within a commercial framework. Being part of the EU has a positive impact on all of these.

The access to the best talent is vital in being a successful engineering business and the positive impact membership of the EU has had in this area has been immense. The UK is a very attractive place for Scientists and Engineers to work and this greater pool of talent in the UK drives competitiveness, growth and creates more of the high value jobs we want in the UK. The quality of our design also significantly benefits from the cultural awareness that is brought by having more culturally diverse design teams.

Access to markets and information has also been enhanced by our membership. Access to markets is not just about access to sell our products but also to market information, around emerging requirements and particularly information about emerging regulatory requirements. This information is often a key trigger in the early innovation process.

Access to funding has been enhanced and whilst I would be the first to criticise the bureaucracy that often accompanies accessing EU funding, (we could learn a lot from the US model here) closing the door on access to these funding streams would have a very negative impact on UK innovation.

The culture of co-operative working which is created by being part of the larger EU scientific and engineering community is of massive, if difficult to quantify, importance. If we choose to be an outsider on June 23rd, we should not be surprised to see that we will be viewed as an outsider and treated as such.

So I fear that an exit decision will mean a significantly weaker UK Science and Engineering sector which means less economic growth and less high value jobs.


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