UK launches post-Brexit international collaboration research fund

Science minister George Freeman launches International Science Partnerships Fund at THE event in Japan, with initial funding of £119 million

December 14, 2022
George Freeman
Source: UK parliament

A new research fund designed to deepen the UK’s scientific partnerships with other “R&D powerhouse nations” represents a significant shift in the country’s international strategy after Brexit, its science minister has insisted.

In a speech in Tokyo, George Freeman said new funding worth an initial £119 million to support scientific collaboration with “other leading nations” indicated the Westminster government was taking a more global approach to science after the UK was excluded from Horizon Europe, the European Union’s flagship research scheme.

Speaking at Times Higher Education’s THE Campus Live Japan event, Mr Freeman said the first phase of the new International Science Partnerships Fund would “help the UK deepen our global research network in Japan and beyond tackling some of humanity’s greatest challenges”.

“Being a science superpower means ensuring we don’t just win prizes but invest in the appliance of science for global good: collaborating more deeply with other leading nations to tackle the urgent global challenges facing our planet,” said Mr Freeman.

One of the projects announced as part of the UK-Japan collaboration will include a research collaboration in neuroscience, neurodegenerative diseases and dementia, aimed at tackling the growing health issues associated with the both the UK and Japan’s ageing populations.

Mr Freeman also announced £15.5 million to support the cutting-edge Japanese “Hyper-K” physics experiment, billed as “a next generation global neutrino experiment”, and the new “ReConnect” British Council Research exchange programme.

His visit to Japan follows the agreement of a preliminary deal on increasing science ties with Switzerland – another leading science nation outside the EU – earlier this year.

While the UK remains keen to join Horizon Europe and other EU schemes, including the Copernicus and Euratom projects, the new initiatives suggest it is increasingly resigned to life outside the programmes.

Full details of the aims and partners of the ISPF programme will be released in the new year.

Christopher Smith, UK Research and Innovation’s international champion, said the latest announcement was a “positive first step in the development of this important new international fund”.

“International collaboration is integral to ensuring the UK harnesses the extraordinary potential of research and innovation to enrich and improve the lives of people living in the UK and around the world,” said Professor Smith, who added that the “specific fund to enable international collaboration will help the UK achieve this vision”.

Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, also welcomed the new funding, stating that “international collaboration and the breakthroughs that come from it are at the heart of discovery science”.

However, the government should not give up on its efforts to secure association to Horizon which “remains the best outcome” for UK science, he added. “We hope to see a breakthrough soon that will unlock the enormous benefits it would bring to the UK and EU,” said Dr Bradshaw.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

In principle this sounds good. On reflection I find it ridiculous that this government and its associates think academics are daft enough to swallow this king of propaganda. They've wrecked our very useful collaboration with the EU research programmes for political reasons and then pretend they want them back. This is populist politics, putting idiots and ideologues over scholarship. Brexit over science. They then drop a few crumbs to placate us. Really? What hypocrites. They've deeply damaged UK academia, effectively dumbing it down. Government should get out of the way of our collaboration with Horizon by rejoining to solve all the other problems they've caused, and let scholars work out their collaboration Japanese scholars or others. What they meant by ‘control’ in ’16 was actually censorship and it then went full on anti-enlightenment.
ReConnect? That's an ironic name from the people that disconnected us from our colleagues in Europe. Or is it a subtle dig at us "ReMoaners"? Either way, this is all too little too late.

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