What to Do After Brexit?

Optics and photonics professionals keep calm and carry on after England withdraws from the EU.

01 October 2016

Photonics researchers, students, and businesses in the UK should continue to “keep calm and carry on” despite the June referendum in which British voters approved the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

Although there have been opportunities and challenges for British manufacturers of lasers and photonics devices and for researchers applying for funding under the Horizon 2020 program, the full impact of the so-called Brexit vote won’t be felt for at least two years as officials negotiate the terms of the withdrawal.

“Mobility and collaboration within the scientific community occur on a global basis,” said SPIE Fellow Keith Lewis, a member of the SPIE Board of Directors and chair of the SPIE European Advisory Committee. Lewis, a director at Sciovis and a former research director of the UK’s Electromagnetic Remote Sensing Defence Technology Centre (EMRS DTC), said: “In principle, Brexit should not be a problem, provided that suitable measures are in place to ensure the proper movement of researchers between nations — not just those from the EU — as required for the support of collaboration within individually funded programs.”

At a recent meeting of the SPIE Engineering, Science & Technology Policy Committee, Lewis noted that in the UK, the largest funder of R&D has historically been the business sector, which contributed some 46% of gross domestic expenditure on R&D activity in 2014. In comparison, the share from Horizon 2020 was only a small part of the overall 18.7% contribution received from non-UK entities.

Lewis said that the UK’s share of Horizon 2020 funding has fallen from the levels received in the EU’s previous framework program for research, FP7, which ran from 2007 to 2013.

The impact of Brexit and other recent political changes on the photonics industry worldwide will be addressed at a panel session during SPIE Photonics West in 2017.

Read more about the impact of the Brexit on the photonics community in the January 2017 issue of SPIE Professional.


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