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The Importance of Strong Links Between UK-EU Researchers

Retaining strong links between UK and EU researchers should be seen as a priority as the government heads into Brexit negotiations.

The question arises after the publication of a report, ‘The impact of collaboration: the value of UK medical research to EU science and health’, highlighting how partnerships between UK and EU doctors and scientists has benefited patients and increased the value of research so far. Commissioned by eight leading organisations including Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the Academy of Medical Sciences, the report highlighted how the UK had contributed positively to research undertaken in the EU.

Clinical trials were found to be hugely beneficial from UK and EU researchers working together, particularly when looking into rare diseases as it is often only possible to carry out trials across a number of different countries in Europe.

And the organisations also drew attention to the important leadership role that British researchers played through their membership on different scientific committees and panels. Estimates suggest that UK researchers accounted for 17% of the membership of the Scientific Advisory Boards at Germany’s Max Planck Institutes, the highest proportion from one country.

Interviews with experts from across Europe also found that the UK’s ability to conduct translational research to discover new treatments and devices was something that could benefit patients across Europe.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, commented that science was global, and that the report highlighted the benefits that researchers working together could have for patients wherever they are in Europe.

“As the UK and the EU enter into negotiations to determine the new relationship it’s vital that ensuring collaborations between medical researchers across Europe continue is a priority,” he added. “By creating an environment that allows the best minds to work together, wherever they are, we will accelerate the life-saving discoveries that will help people across Europe.” 

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation and president of the European Heart Network, added that researchers need to work with the world’s best scientific minds and resources to produce world-class research.

“This report shows that our research has a bigger impact when it’s an international effort so it’s essential that the UK’s new relationship with the EU helps strengthen existing scientific links, encourages new collaborations, and maximises our ability to contribute to the global research effort,” he stated.

Finally, professor Sir Robert Lechler FMedSci, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “Our relationship with researchers within the EU is mutually beneficial for both scientific research and patient care.

“The UK must prioritise maintaining and strengthening this valuable symbiotic alliance/partnership as we begin negotiations to leave the EU. This will ensure the best outcome for research, innovation and most vitally, for patients in the UK, Europe and beyond.”

(Source: National Health Executive)

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