The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, under the Chairmanship of Lord Selborne, is conducting an inquiry into the relationship between EU membership and the effectiveness of science, research and innovation in the UK. The Committee invites interested individuals and organisations to submit evidence to this inquiry. The deadline for written evidence submissions is Friday, 20 November 2015.
The UK’s membership of the EU has wide ranging influence on the vitality of UK science, research and innovation. Understanding this influence, however, is complex and multifaceted. Its exact nature is uncatalogued in a number of key areas and this inquiry aims to try and understand and characterise the interactions between EU membership and the effectiveness of science, research and innovation in the UK. Funding for research and innovation, collaboration, regulatory frameworks and scientific advice are four areas that we have identified as of paramount importance, though we would welcome information under additional headings if appropriate.
The EU-level funding mechanisms available to UK researchers are myriad and a number are highly intricate. These include European Research Council funding, Horizon 2020 programmes (formerly Framework Programme 7), Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI) and European Innovation Partnerships. As well as public funding, private investment in UK research and development from international (both EU and non-EU) and UK-domiciled businesses is also increasingly recognised as crucial to the performance of the science base as a means to maintain competitiveness and productivity. The UK’s EU membership may serve to make the UK a more or less attractive location for investment. As such, membership may influence access to public, private and charitable funding.
Science is, by its very nature, a collaborative endeavour and key breakthroughs are often the result of collaborations between researchers across the globe. In addition to funding, researchers from across the UK have access to shared infrastructure as part of EU partnerships and other international relationships. Shared infrastructure allows for sharing of costs, expertise and facilitates larger scale investments. Within the EU, freedom of movement allows researchers to work in universities, research institutes and industry with relative ease. For example, EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowships fund scientists from any EU country to work in any other, and the ERASMUS programme, likewise, allows unimpeded flow of students and teaching staff across the EU.
Much of the science carried out in the UK is regulated by EU frameworks and directives. The clinical trials landscape and research into genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are two examples of areas dominated by regulations drawn at a European level. Innovation in the UK is also highly influenced by EU-level legislation and regulation and is affected by the balance (or imbalance) struck between regulation and innovation.
There are a number of mechanisms for the provision of science advice and the input of scientific evidence within the EU. The most high profile of these was arguably the position of European Chief Scientific Adviser, a post created by President Barroso during his term in office. Under President Juncker’s Presidency, however, a new Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) is under development as a replacement. The strength of the EU science advice environment is untested but it will impinge on the plethora of ways in which UK science, research and innovation interact with the EU.
We are interested in four major themes; funding, collaboration, regulation and scientific advice, and the questions below seek to probe these themes. These questions, however, do not necessarily amount to a definitive listing of the key issues; respondents are therefore encouraged to draw attention to all relevant issues falling under the four themes, as they see fit, and not be limited by the questions posed.
1.What is the scale of the financial contribution from the EU to science and research in the UK? How does the financial contribution the UK receives compare with other member states in terms of, for instance, population, GDP, scientific strength or any other relevant indicators?
2.What is the scale of the financial contribution from the UK to the EU that supports science and research activities?
3.What is the effectiveness and efficiency with which these funds are managed in the EU compared to the management of science funding in the UK? Particularly, when administrative overheads, quality of decision-making and advisory processes are considered?
4.What are the benefits to UK science and research of participation in EU collaborations and funding programmes such as Horizon 2020 and the European Research Council?
5.What is the influence of EU membership on bilateral collaboration between the UK and other EU member states? Are collaborations with member states stronger than with non-EU countries as a result of EU membership? Or, are bilateral collaborations with member states inhibited by requirements to work through EU mechanisms?
6.How is private investment in UK science and research influenced by EU membership? Is international investment leveraged on the basis of this membership? How does EU membership affect the growth of research-intensive UK companies?
7.How does the UK participate in the creation and operation of international facilities that are available as a consequence of our EU membership? Are there any restrictions in the creation and operation of international facilities outside the EU as a consequence of our EU membership?
8.What contribution does EU membership make to the quality of UK science and research through the free movement of people? How does this compare with flows of people between the UK and non-EU countries such as the USA, India, China and Singapore?
9.Does EU membership inhibit collaborations with countries outside the EU, for example by requiring the UK to adopt EU-wide immigration policies rather than bespoke ones for the UK?
10.What are the key EU regulatory frameworks/mechanisms that directly affect the science and research community in the UK?
11.If the UK were not a member of the EU, could regulations be reformed to give greater benefit to UK science and research? For example, in areas such as data regulation, VAT on shared facilities, and the use of the precautionary principle?
12.How is the innovation landscape affected by EU membership?
13.How does the quality and effectiveness of scientific advice on matters of public policy compare between the EU and the UK? What are the effects, if any, of differences in the provision of scientific advice between the EU and the UK?
14.To what extent does EU membership enable UK scientists to inform and influence public policy at EU or international levels? To what extent does EU membership inhibit UK scientists from influencing public policy at EU or international levels?
17 September 2015