Former IChemE President makes the case for chemical engineers post-Brexit

Published:  15 March, 2018

Professor Geoffrey Maitland, former President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), spoke to MPs recently about the impact of Brexit on chemical engineering in the UK.

Speaking on behalf of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and IChemE, at the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s Brexit: Science and Innovation Summit, Maitland highlighted the work of IChemE’s Brexit Working Group and recent Brexit survey.

Held at the Institution of Civil Engineers HQ, in London, the summit was split into three parts – People, Funding and Collaboration, and Regulation. Sixteen representatives from UK science and engineering took part in the panel sessions, which were hosted by MPs; including Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Norman Lamb, and Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gyimah.

Neil O’Brien MP chaired the session on ‘People’, mostly looking at how freedom of movement would affect science and engineering. This was a contentious issue amongst the panel members, and those in attendance.

Professor Julia Buckingham, treasurer of universities UK said: “In engineering and technology, almost 60% of the PhD students at my University [Brunel University, London] come from outside the EU. Just 10% come from the UK. It’s worth remembering these students are not working in isolation – they are contributing to a much wider research effort. Without them the productivity of UK research would fall significantly.

“These students are key to our ability going forward, as a nation, to deliver high-quality science and innovation.”

IChemE surveyed over 50 members on the impact of Brexit in February and consulted with its Brexit Working Group and Special Interest Groups in preparation for the summit. The survey found that 82% supported free movement for all engineering professionals, and mutual recognition of qualifications between the UK and EU27 post-Brexit. In recruitment, 37% felt that, in the event of non-UK born EU workers leaving the UK (and UK workers leaving the EU) post-Brexit, there would be no impact on recruiting chemical engineers to their organisation. However more than 50% of those surveyed felt it would be significantly or slightly more difficult.

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