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BSI Weekly Policy and Public Affairs Update

BSI Policy and Public Affairs Update

14 May - 18 May

UKRI Strategy published

UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) is the new national funding body which brings together the 7 research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. UKRI will play a fundamental role in ensuring the UK stays at the forefront of research and innovation and continues to tackle local and international challenges.

On Monday, UKRI published their Strategic Prospectus, which includes a number of aims, including their intention to work with Government to increase research funding by 2.4%GDP by 2027. Their Strategy also states intentions for a research and innovation system that is transparent and cooperative, for example by aiming for all publicly funded research to be open access, as well as promoting high standards of research, collaboration and integrity.

Home Office publish Tier 2 visa refusal figures

In March, the BSI was one of over 40 co-signatories on a letter sent from the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE)* to the Prime Minister calling for the Government to revise the UK’s current immigration policy – namely lifting the Tier 2 (General) visa annual cap - to better attract international research and innovation talent. CaSE also submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office regarding Tier 2 visa application refusals; the Home Office published the figures this week.

The figures show that 6,000 visa applications from skilled overseas workers, including scientists, were refused due to the annual Tier 2 visa cap between December 2017 and March 2018. In response to the publication of these figures, the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee has stated that it will produce its own proposals for an immigration system that works for science and innovation.

The Committee Chair, Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, said:

“Today’s revelation that more than 1,600 IT specialists and engineers offered jobs in the UK were denied visas between December and March sends the message that the UK is not interested in welcoming science talent at the moment. The Government needs to work quickly to correct that impression.”

The Committee welcomes further input into its open consultation. The deadline for input is Wednesday 6 June and can be submitted here.

*Note that the BSI is a member of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, the body for advocating for science and research through the Brexit negotiations. 

House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee discuss UK progress on Brexit negotiations

The House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee met on Wednesday to hear evidence from representatives from the Russell Group, the Wellcome Trust, CaSE and others. This session was one in a series of ongoing evidence sessions held by the Committee on the progress of Brexit negotiations.

A statement from CaSE detailed how the Committee heard that universities and research organisations were seeing a decline in applications for job vacancies, research fellowships and postgraduate positions from non-UK EU and EEA nationals.

Beth Thompson, head of UK and EU Policy at the Wellcome Trust, said that in 2017 the proportion of non-UK researchers from the European Economic Area who applied to the funder’s early-career schemes fell by 14 per cent, and that some EU researchers who had won funding turned it down.

The evidence heard in this session will be summarised in a report and submitted to the Government for a formal response.

MHRA business plan outlines plan for Brexit

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which is responsible for the safety and efficacy of medicines and medical devices in the UK, have released their annual business plan outlining actions in light of the UK’s upcoming exit from the EU.

The MHRA will continue to support the Government’s negotiations on future regulation of medicines and medical devices in the UK post-Brexit. Their aim is to deliver a smooth EU-exit which protects public health, facilitates innovation and minimizes burden on industry to make the UK an attractive Global regulator. To do this they will:

  • Develop and provide strategic evidence and information for Government to support a clear negotiating position on medicines, medical devices and blood products.
  • Ensure that all legislation is transposed into UK law for transition on 30 March 2019 so that UK patients continue to have access to safe, effective and innovative products, ensuring that regulations are robust, clear and flexible to allow a pragmatic approach to patient safety.
  • Ensure national IT portals and databases continue to operate from EU exit day one and have the operational flexibility to enable information exchange with EU portals.
  • Ensure a pragmatic approach to UK transition, including:
    • ongoing participation in the EU regulatory network, committees and working groups.
    • preparing to implement legislation as part of the UK’s current obligations as a current EU Member.
    • preparing work on legislative changes required in an EU exit scenario.

Other actions included enhancing public health impact by furthering the development of the MHRA’s international standing and supporting innovation and growth within the Life Sciences, details of which can be read about in the full report here.

Ministers and Industry leaders brought together by a new Life Sciences council

The inaugural meeting of the new Life Sciences Council, took place at Downing Street on Wednesday 16 May.

The establishment of the Life Sciences Council is one of the outcomes of the Life Science Industrial Strategy. The group will focus on delivering the Life Sciences Sector Deal and will support the development of the next generation of medicines, technologies and diagnostics and provide better care and treatments for millions of patients.

The meeting, which was chaired by Business Secretary Greg Clark and Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt, was attended by a range of Government officials from the Departments of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), NHS England and UK research and Innovation (UKRI) as well as representatives from Industry.

The meeting highlighted the importance of the life sciences sector to the Industrial Strategy, the NHS and its patients. Furthermore, Brexit, the challenges and opportunities it presents along with priorities for the sector was discussed and industry leaders were clear on the Government’s commitment to achieving a good outcome for the sector, both for medicines and the wider sector.