Parting of the partnerships

Written by: Tim Fryer | Published:
Whilst agreeing with the points you made in your leader in the August Edition of Eureka, there is ...

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Being honest I had hoped that the Brexit issue would have sloped off stage quietly and be in the past by now, but it seems it and its consequences will be with us for many years. A trip to the Farnborough Air International Show (FAI) highlighted why these consequences could hit the British technology and engineering sectors hard.

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.

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Whilst agreeing with the points you made in your leader in the August Edition of Eureka, there is another side to the story that needs to told. There is nothing to prevent individual UK and EU companies collaborating on R&D, where they jointly identify mutual commercial advantage, and then submit proposals to their respective governments for funding support. This has the merit that commercial interest leads the funding whereas the reverse is the case with many government funded schemes. It is a well known practice that some well capitalised companies subsidise their R&D budgets in this manner. A similar problem exists in the academic world where, for many years, a search for funding has been prioritised above sustained intellectual curiosity, leading to the blunting of many promising academic careers.. Brexit has created an opportunity to change the motivation. We need companies and universities with leaders who put vision before financial gain. The take over of British boardrooms by financiers rather than genuine industrialists, after the financial de-regulation of the 1980's, is a major factor contributing to our dismal continuing record of low productivity.
The financial industry is based on short term profits, they don't really care about long term issues so they are bound to worry about what happens immediately after a change. For the long term benefit of this country we will be better off on our own in the whole world, not just Europe.
Since the referendum there has been large inward investment from both South Africa and Japan, and Australia have requested trade talks. And does anyone really think that Germany will not want to sell cars (Mercedes, BMW, Vauxhall, Audi, Volkswagen) here at favourable rates? Long term we will again be a strong trading nation, but without laws being imposed on us from Brussels. Ignore the short termism comments from the financial sector and concentrate on promoting a stronger future in the longer term.
@John, 21/07/2016


@ Mike, 21/07/2016


@Tim Fryer

Stop moaning. EU funding using taxpayer's money for research and everything else is based on EU/Gov'ts know best.

Taxpayer funded research rarely innovates or makes a profit - overall it contributes negative GDP.

I much prefer private companies deciding what to research and where to innovate to succeed and make a profit - eg Motorsport sector in UK.

Promote UK rather being Mr Doom-&-Gloom.

Good balance in this article and the automotive industry is similar. Those of us old enough to have worked in European countries pre-EEC will recall the challenges and the uphill nature of getting business. Obviously it is possible, but I believe you are correct to identify the challenges in industry and especially in university collaborative projects and staff mobility.Whistling in the wind and chest-beating about Greatness will have little real impact in the wider world. Motivation through realistic assessment of the work to be done is critical.
Totally agree with the comment from John.
It seems people are not happy unless they are spouting doom and gloom about Brexit. At the end of the day our success on exit from the EU will be down to us as a people and nation being positive and confident in our ability to show and demonstrate to those doubters and the rest that we are exactly what and excuse the pun what it says on the side of the tin GREAT BRITAIN
Why are all journalists, and Carney, pessimists, talking the country down instead of looking at the positive side. May, a Remain supporter, looks on the positive side.

Why don't you help and do the same?

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