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Will Brexit impact UK university research?

OCF MD Julian Fielden discusses the likelihood of Brexit having an impact on university-based research in the UK

Posted by Hannah Oakman | September 11, 2016 | Higher education

Brexit has been at the forefront of our minds for the past few months and there have been concerns about how the vote to leave the European Union will impact University-based research in the UK.

In many walks of life there is the temptation to use the news of a huge ‘macro’ event to cover up other more localised problems (burying bad news on a busy news day etc.) and there is undoubtedly some of this going on.  If you have a problem, blame Brexit.  We need to accept that Brexit has happened, bringing with it a new set of rules that we’ll have to live by. 

There is still a desire for the government to invest in scientific research, as seen in the government’s announcement this month, committing to back EU-funded projects signed before this year's Autumn Statement.  Importantly, any fears have been allayed around the withdrawal from the EU Horizon 2020 funding (The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation), by the UK government guaranteeing to uphold any Horizon research funding granted before leaving the EU. 

There is still a real drive for world-leading research in the UK.  We are seeing more opportunities for OCF than ever in supporting HPC research projects at UK’s top Universities.  Simulation has become the accepted third leg of research after theory and experimentation. Organisations still need to design better products, cut time to market and test products and theories.  In research, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy - the more you do, the more you want to do.  With this hunger for new research projects, in turn, more and more data is produced for researchers to analyse and use in university research - Brexit isn’t going to change that.

I also don’t believe that Europe’s universities will take any research opportunities from the UK.  If you look at the top 50 universities in the world, the growth has been in India and China, rather than Europe.  The UK still has some of the best universities in the world and there are plenty of opportunities for researchers to access UK and EU funding.  In turn, these researchers will continue to fund IT and HPC investment.

Top talent will go to where they can do the best work.  In order to do the best work, they need the best tools.  The government has made it clear that it will support research projects going forward.  

Overall, universities are still going to be able to invest in HPC & big data analytics both before and after Brexit.  If you are good at what you do, people will buy what you supply.  If the rules change slightly, then you need to change your business model. We’ve been through deep recessions and come out the other side.  Excellence will always find a way through.

In my view, Brexit doesn’t matter either way.  Those people who were going to be successful before Brexit will continue to be so. Be positive!

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