17 October 2017

Where will your science or technology venture be post-Brexit?

‘HOW much!?’ The potential impact of Brexit on science funding 

Evolution takes hundreds of thousands of years, but with less than 500 days left till Brexit day, the Government needs to move much faster if it wants the UK to remain a world leader in science and technology.

With Article 50 triggered earlier this year, British scientists are becoming increasingly concerned with the Government’s lack of clarity over its plans to fund the UK’s science and technology industry.

The UK currently receives a huge 15.5 per cent of all EU science funding, and according to the European Commission, from 2007-2013, three per cent of all research in the UK was funded by the EU, though a UK report estimated it as being closer to nine per cent.

Brexit could cost scientists £1bn a year, which the UK has promised to underwrite.

A new horizon for collaboration?  

But there is hope for continued partnership with the EU on scientific projects. The European Research Council announced grants to 406 researchers, worth £553m in total, earlier this year. Even with Brexit in mind, the UK had the highest proportion of recipients.

The Government has also released a position paper which stated its intention to continue to be involved with the EU on scientific projects and the €77 billion EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation funding programme.

New National Investment Fund – the answer the tech sector needs? 

“It’s vital that we make sure our cutting-edge firms have the funding they need to meet their potential and conquer new markets”. 

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond’s statement in August looked to reassure the UK’s rapidly growing technology sector, as the Government proposed a new National Investment Fund for innovative tech firms in the UK.

This comes as somewhat of a relief as currently UK businesses, particular start-ups, lean heavily on the EU for finance through the European Investment Fund (EIF). With the potential loss of this huge pot of funding, the National Investment Fund looks to ensure that UK tech can continue to grow if the EU pulls the plug.

Brexit – A changing tide for tech investment

Even with this replacement fund, the uncertainty of Brexit still seems to dominate discussions at UK tech events. TechUK’s second annual ‘Supercharging the Digital Economy’ event saw panellists calling for the Government to increase incentives for foreign businesses to invest in the UK tech industry and to make greater investment in STEM education.

Some of our tech clients are already looking to alternative methods of funding such as Blockchain Initial Coin Offerings and crowdfunding. These present different advantages and disadvantages compared to more traditional angel investment and venture capital funding, but due to their relatively recent emergence (particularly Blockchain), their effectiveness and rate of success still remains to be seen. 

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Michael Griffin, Paralegal
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