Siemens boss urges UK government to protect EU research ties

Juergen Maier calls on UK government to associate to Horizon Europe post-Brexit, but also to create British innovation fund

October 15, 2019
Collaboration

The chief executive of Siemens UK has urged the Westminster government to keep the nation in the European Union’s research programmes, which aid collaboration with universities in projects that he described as being “fundamentally important” to industry, but also to create a new British innovation fund.

It remains unclear whether the UK will seek to, or be able to, associate to the EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe, which starts in 2021. But it is widely thought that a no-deal Brexit that ruptures UK-EU relations would make an agreement impossible.

Juergen Maier said that no-deal would be the “worst possible outcome” for research, “and I do point that out to ministers on every occasion, because they don’t often understand the research agenda, which to a company such as Siemens – to any company that looks to innovate – is fundamentally important”.

Mr Maier highlighted the EU-funded Triangulum smart cities research project, in which Siemens collaborated with the universities of Manchester, Eindhoven and Stavanger as well as local authorities in those cities.

Such initiatives were crucial in “developing innovation and IP”, he said, “so going forward Siemens wants to continue to participate in programmes like that. Either Britain has to find a way of being part of [EU research programmes]…or – probably and, actually – Britain [should launch] its own innovation fund into which European and global partners are invited to participate.”

Asked about ministers not understanding the importance of EU research programmes, Mr Maier – a British-Austrian national who came to the UK aged 10 – said that “unfortunately, whilst the country has got an incredible amount of brilliant research in our universities, we haven’t had – for really four decades – a strategy that really understands and really gets behind the prosperity that can be created from that innovation, in terms of creating many new industries [and] many new jobs”.

Mr Maier said he had told ministers that EU research programmes were “important for wealth creation in the UK”.

He highlighted the Siemens plant in Congleton, Cheshire, where he started his career. The plant makes industrial motors that rely on an inverter, and “what made that possible to package [the inverter] in a compact form…back in the late 1980s was a patent out of [what is now] Manchester University”, Mr Maier said.

“The value that is created in a lot of British factories comes out of some innovation or IP that sparks, very often, out of a university.”

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Work together: keep research ties, urges Siemens boss

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Reader's comments (1)

Do not wait on politicians: Universities should band together and forge their own relationships with Europe and then tell the politicians "This is how it shall be".

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