Large scale British engineering excellence was in abundance and while the considerable defence capability on show might not have been to everyone’s tastes, it was clear that the whole aerospace arena is one that we are particularly good at.
However, there was much talk of European collaborations, particularly those funded by Horizon 2020 (i.e. EU money), which form part of the funding foundations for many of our academic institutions. The programmes also depend on the expertise and even the unique manufacturing capabilities of some of our leading companies – it is hard to see how some of the aerospace programmes could continue without partnerships with companies like Rolls Royce and GKN.
Programmes are coming to an end and new ones are getting underway, but faced with uncertainty around British participation will they either not go ahead or proceed without considering UK involvement. It is a critical time and time that could be lost if no action is taken until EU exit is finalised, presumably two years hence.
This is not a situation that can be resolved simply by diverting monies saved by non-membership of the EU. It will require a strategy that will ensure UK involvement in science, technology and engineering programmes, and one that may involve direct payment into a central fund or perhaps government sponsorship of participating organisations.
Not addressing the situation at an early stage will have consequences for our academic institutions, technology companies as well as for our European partners – we do, after all, have a huge amount to offer such collaborations.