The clock continues its Brexit countdown to March 29, the date when the UK leaves the European Union (EU). And as well as being a momentous moment for all of Europe, Brexit is of particular significance for the science and tech sector. With that being said, Express.co.uk has spoken to some of the brightest minds in the industry on what Brexit or a no deal Brexit could really mean for Britain.
Brexit’s effect on the UK attracting the world’s best talent
Imam Hoque, COO & Global Head of Product at Quantexa, said Brexit will stunt growth in the industry as the top minds look elsewhere for their careers.
He said: “The reality is there is an overall shortage in skills within the high-spec technology and data science sectors around the world.
Academic research in the UK has benefited disproportionally from EU funding
“With the UK’s reputation for creating great technology, it has always been able to attract its fair share of top talent in these areas, making it a net importer of the brightest minds.
“With less individuals coming to the UK due to worries over Brexit, we are now fishing from a much smaller pond.”
This fall in workers has already been felt industry-wide. Gordon & Eden, a specialist technology recruitment firm, claim applications from EU citizens have fallen by 40 percent.
Brexit news: Leaving the EU could have particular significance for the science and tech sector
The CPS Group agreed, saying it will be more difficult to recruit “the brightest minds in tech post-Brexit”.
In a statement, the firm said: “The sector is already threatened by an ever-widening skills gap and by competition from Silicon Valley and other tech hubs.
“Convincing national and international candidates to consider roles here while Westminster attempts to tell the world that we’re just fine on our own is no mean feat.
“What’s not being discussed at the moment is that all of this is already happening; the rest of the world has not stopped to wait until we have decided on our next course of action.
“We are already failing to attract the best talent and investment because their future position in our country is not certain.
“The longer we continue without an agreed-upon deal, the more we will lose out.”
Brexit news: Europe was the enlightenment’s crucible
Adrian Ezra, CEO and Found of JamieAi, added: “As an HR-tech company, we know only too well the challenges businesses face when it comes to attracting the best talent, particularly as demand for STEM jobs, such as data scientists, already heavily outweighs supply.
“As technology continues to disrupt pretty much every sector, demand for these jobs will only increase as businesses become ever more tech-driven and focussed on the latest developments in the world of AI and machine learning.
“It’s therefore vital we ensure the movement of talent, knowledge sharing, and international collaboration remains at the forefront of the UK’s agenda, helping businesses secure the brightest and best global talent.”
Brexit news: A referendum’s consequences have been bitterly contested
Brexit’s effect on funding for the sciences:
Ben Lorica, Chief Data Scientist and AI Conference program chair at O’Reilly Media, claims Brexit is a major cause for concern when it comes to funding for the sciences.
He said: “The extent to which the UK research industry (particularly when it comes to tech and AI) will be able to benefit from EU funding agencies and initiatives is something that remains very uncertain.
“For this to remain unaffected, arrangements need to be made so that UK researchers can proceed to take part in projects such as the LHC, that spans across multiple countries.
“Of course, a lot will depend on the specific terms of Brexit.
“Ultimately, researchers who want to “lead and coordinate” large projects that span multiple countries might opt to relocate to areas where they can continue to do so.
“This may prove detrimental in the long run to the UK.”
Brexit news: Modern science was born in the EU
Adrian Ezra added Britain must place the utmost importance on ensuring funding for the sciences is secured – both in the short and long-term.
While Imam Hoque said the UK should find its own way of funding scientific activity post-Brexit – but added the question remains as to when.
He said: “With the hundreds of potential Brexit impacts that the Government must consider, it is unlikely that the funding of the sciences will be given top priority.
“However, this could do lasting damage to the industry as talent may choose other localities over Britain and organisations may slip versus competitors.”
Brexit news: Many in the science and technology sector worry about Brexit’s impact
Brexit’s effect on research and development (R&D):
Paul Peter Tak, former GSK Senior Vice President, claims Brexit will force major losses for development – largely due to such funding cuts.
He said: “Academic research in the UK, which has benefited disproportionally from EU funding, will incur significant losses as the UK will no longer be eligible for European grants.
“This is not only important in terms of money, but also in light of the important consortiums and networks that are created by EU programs like the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – science is a collaborative effort.
“The UK will also not be able to shape the European research agenda.”
Ben Lorica added Brexit will have serious consequences for researchers, who currently are able to move and share resources between the UK and other EU locations.
He said: “It is likely researchers may not have the ability to collaborate and work across these locations.
“A proposed European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems has the potential to create a research centre that draws researchers from across Europe, including the UK.
“Such a research centre would encourage cross-country collaboration and access to pooled funding resources.
“A lot of AI talent within Europe and the UK are drawn by research and funding opportunities in US research institutions and companies.
“Europe gets stronger if it works together, and Brexit might create some friction in the ability for researchers to do so.
“There is also the possibility that UK researchers will no longer be able to lead and coordinate projects that span multiple countries such as the large Horizon 2020 projects.”
Brexit news: The clock continues its countdown to March 29
Adrian Ezra added Brexit – and the threat of a no deal Brexit – brings added uncertainty for research and development – or R&D.
He said: “The UK has always been a global leader in tech R&D and there are particularly exciting things happening in the AI and machine learning space.
“That said, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit does pose challenges to businesses some of whom may avoid investing too heavily in R&D until we’re on more solid ground.
“It’s therefore up to the government to ensure businesses are given the reassurance they need to ensure investment in R&D remains a top priority.”
Brexit’s effect on the import/export of tech products:
Ben Lorica said: “The impact that Brexit will have on importing and exporting tech products is difficult to forecast.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty in this area echoing the uncertainty that can be felt amongst most tech companies.
“For example, currently, geopolitical factors are having an important effect as to how countries are deciding whether they can or cannot supply a 5G infrastructure.
Brexit news: The UK has a reputation for creating great technology
“This is limiting their ability of adopting AI and machine learning efforts exclusively.
“However, with that said, companies still want to continue to use the best products in the market and at the right price.
“Therefore, other less significant considerations, such as company locations will ultimately take a backseat.”
Imam Hoque said Brexit could see taxes – and therefore the cost of products – rise, especially if the UK comes crashing out the Brussels bloc without a deal.
He said: “There is currently no certainty over what trade agreements will be agreed. This could result in additional taxes on tech products that are sold in the EU.
“For many UK companies, this will be painful as it makes services and products seem much more expensive.”