British Irish Chamber of Commerce launches major initiative for the Higher Education & Research sector

“This is a sector where Brexit can be turned from catastrophe to catalyst” says John McGrane, Director General

At a Conference convened in London on 10 May by the Chamber’s Patron, Niall FitzGerald KBE DSA, the Chamber urged policymakers to harness the limited opportunities of Brexit to enhance collaboration between universities and research institutes on both sides of the Irish Sea. 

The ‘Developing a UK-Ireland Higher Education and Research Partnership’ conference, sponsored by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), brought together for the first time leading Ministers, policymakers, educators, researchers and employers from across the UK and Ireland to identify specific initiatives to enhance cooperation post-Brexit.

John McGrane, Director General of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce said: “Britain’s world-class universities and research institutes deliver massive benefits to the UK economy and society. Brexit threatens this but catastrophe can be turned to catalyst if UK and Irish institutions cooperate for mutual benefit. Brexit offers an unrivalled opportunity for Ireland to become a global research hub, attracting international talent and high levels of investment among those seeking an assured base within the EU. However, to achieve this, Ireland’s higher education and research sector needs to build on already-strong links with the sector in the UK and it needs considerable new investment and enablement in its own right. The Chamber is committed to proactively supporting the work of governments and institutions to make this happen”.

The London conference was officially opened by the Irish Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan TD and the UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Sam Gyimah MP.

In his remarks, Minister Halligan said: “In the context of the UK withdrawing from the EU, Ireland needs to continue to cultivate ties with world-leading educational institutes in the UK. This is critical in fostering research excellence and supports Ireland’s ambition to become a global innovation leader. Today’s event will assist the Government in identifying the opportunities that lie ahead to forge a world-class research and innovation system.”

UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Sam Gyimah said: “The UK has a special relationship with Ireland and we greatly value close collaboration to deliver excellence in research, higher education and innovation.  The UK is committed to ensuring that our relationships, like the one we have with Ireland, continue to flourish now and in the future. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we plan to invest 2.4% of GDP on research and development by 2027, ensuring our scientists and innovators get the backing they need to build a Britain fit for the future.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support this conference. SFI has excellent programmes with the major funders of UK scientific research which foster collaborations between the best researchers in the UK and Ireland. SFI aims to strengthen these collaborative programmes and develop new ones. Science Foundation Ireland supports world-class scientific research, with deep and significant enterprise engagement. As part of our increasing international engagement SFI are focused on enhancing the existing strong collaborations with UK funding agencies, universities, companies and researchers, which in turn will enhance the impact of research performed in both jurisdictions.”

Dr Graham Love, CEO of the HEA said: “Today’s event affords the opportunity to put higher education and research at the centre of the Brexit debate. Despite the challenges that it poses for other areas of the economy, Irish universities can flourish and become world-leading talent magnets. To do so, we must broaden our links with UK higher education and research institutes, not diminish them.”

Speakers at the event included:

  • Niall FitzGerald, KBE DSA, Patron of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce;
  • Sam Gyimah MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation;
  • John Halligan TD, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development;
  • Professor Sir Mark Walport, FMedSci FRS, Chief Executive, UKRI;
  • Professor Paul Joseph Boyle, CBE, FRSE, FBA, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester;
  • Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Irish Government;
  • Paul Ladislaus, Thomas Swan Process Technology Team Leader, Advanced Materials Division;
  • Professor Jimmy Burke, Head of Research and Knowledge Transfer, Origin Enterprises Plc;
  • Fiona Fox, OBE, Chief Executive, Science Media Centre
  • Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive Officer of the Higher Education Authority of Ireland (HEA);
  • Eoin O’Neill, President, British Irish Chamber of Commerce
  • Professor Daire Keogh, Chair of the British Irish Chamber Higher Education and Research Committee, Deputy President, Dublin City University
  • Triona McCormack, Deputy Chair of the British Irish Chamber Higher Education and Research Committee, Director of Research, University College Dublin
  • Professor Patrick O’Shea, President of UCC, Chair of the IUA; and
  • Professor Louise Richardson AAAS AcSS FRSE RIIA, Vice-Chancellor, University of Oxford.
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