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Government’s industrial strategy fails to consider the effects of Brexit, MPs warn

The Government’s industrial strategy takes insufficient account of Brexit and its effect on the regulatory regime and research and trading relationships, according to a committee of MPs.

A House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report also said that the Government must be ready to ensure that its science funding makes up any net shortfall in research funding available through international collaborative research as a result of Brexit.

According to the Committee, the industrial strategy Green Paper (see HEi-know Briefing Report 334), published by the government in January, barely discusses or even acknowledges its links with Brexit, missing a major opportunity to outline the risk and opportunities arising from the UK’s exit from the EU.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is seen by the Committee as a crucial player in ensuring the success of the industrial strategy, making it easier to change research priorities and provide support to innovation to reflect the demands of a post-Brexit world.

It welcomed the announcement of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) but said the Government should clarify in the next iteration of the industrial strategy the relationship between the sectors deals and ISCF, and UKRI’s role in the initiative. It also needs to explain how it will fit with the proposed post-Brexit regulatory environment and align with the Government’s Brexit strategic aims.

Stephen Metcalfe MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said the industrial strategy was “not yet being fully configured to shape Exit negotiations” and warned that it will have to be progressively updated to reflect the results of those negotiations.

“A regulatory regime that is well-crafted and tuned to our post-Brexit international research and trading relationships - both with Europe and globally -will be essential,” he said. “The Government has an opportunity to do more to strengthen the links between the industrial strategy and Brexit as the Exit negotiations now get under way. That will be vitally important for keeping the Government’s industrial strategy relevant.”

The Committee also repeated its call for the Government to give a firm commitment to the status of EU researchers working and studying in the UK. 

On the issue of closing the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills gap, the report welcomed the development of the new T-level and called for the Government to complement its raft of initiatives by scaling-up existing local STEM-promoting initiatives.

“Further education reforms aimed at raising STEM skills should also reflect not just what employers need but also evidence on what initiatives are most effective in increasing and sustaining young people's interest in science and what really influences their study subject choices,” said Metcalfe.