Before and after the UK's referendum on its future in the European Union (EU), one of the groups most supportive of the UK's membership of the EU was the scientific community. This was, in at least part, owing to the £850m of research funding the UK receives each year from the EU and the large number of scientists from the EU that are employed in UK research institutions.
However, Sir John Kingman, head of the newly created UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has suggested that this could be an opportunity for the UK to use its scientific excellence to drive the UK economy against a possible post-Brexit recession.
The UK is one of the most highly regarded countries for scientific research, but often the discoveries made at this fundamental level are not developed into tangible innovations and successful companies based on these technologies.
As reported previously by my colleague Phillip, UKRI is being formed from a merger of the seven existing research councils and Innovate UK, the government's agency for fostering science and technology based business. Hopefully this move, along with increased work being done by university technology transfer offices (capturing the intellectual property from university research) and the Catapult centres for boosting particular innovative industries in the UK (e.g. based on satellite technologies), will help to provide a far more integrated and connected system in the UK.
This will surely result in more of the fundamental research and innovation being realised in the form of start-up companies that will grow, and will thus ultimately benefit the UK's economy.
The critical point for me is that the new Prime Minister has quite rightly called for a new industrial strategy posing the question what is the best way to formulate a new economic future for an independent UK outside the European Union and I think that great science, great research universities have a huge amount to contribute to that.