UK science and technology after Brexit: how to fix it

Think tank: Centre for European Reform

Author(s): Zach Meyers; John Springford

November 28, 2022

This report from UK think tank the Centre for European Reform looks at how Brexit has hampered UK science and innovation.

Britain’s spat with the EU over participation in the €95 billion Horizon Europe research programme remains one of the biggest issues in the fractious post-Brexit UK-EU relationship. The EU will not allow Britain to join the programme before the Northern Ireland Protocol is settled. The loss of Horizon would damage British science. Yet Brexit has contributed to broader problems with how scientific knowledge and technology are developed, commercialised and used in Britain. In this Centre for European Reform policy brief, ‘UK science and technology after Brexit: How to fix it’, Zach Meyers and John Springford explain how Brexit has hampered UK science and innovation. They conclude that the UK’s world-leading universities can withstand the loss of Horizon, even though many of its non-monetary benefits will be hard to replicate. However, Brexit has had a more profound impact on the diffusion of technology across the economy. A much smaller number of skilled European data scientists and engineers are taking jobs in the UK after Brexit – making it harder for UK businesses to adopt and deploy new technology. The government has tried to make it easier for skilled workers from around the world to migrate to Britain. However, the CER shows that this has only partially made up for the end of free movement. Similarly, investment flatlined after the referendum, and then fell during the pandemic, lagging behind other European countries since 2016. That means UK businesses have slowed their investment in new computing and machinery improvements.