Saturday 24 September 2016

Ireland moves to poach research talent from Britain in wake of Brexit

Published 04/08/2016 | 02:30

Dr Eucharia Meehan: ‘There are opportunities in Ireland’
Dr Eucharia Meehan: ‘There are opportunities in Ireland’

Ireland is actively seeking to poach some of the world's best academic brains from the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote.

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The Irish Research Council (IRC) has lost no time in targeting top international scientists to come to Ireland to carry out their work.

The move could help to trigger a reverse of the brain drain that has, over the years, cost Ireland some of its brightest talent and, with them, opportunities lost to the country.

The IRC has taken out an eye-catching double-page ad in the current issue of the UK-based, Times Higher Education, the leading UK and international higher education and trade publication.

The weekly, Times Higher Education (THE) supplement is well-known for its annual league table of the world's top 800 universities.

The two-page spread seeking to capitalise on the recent Brexit decision promotes Ireland as an open and innovative destination for research of all kinds.

The UK has many highly ­rated universities - 16 of the top 100 in the last THE rankings - and receives about £1bn a year in EU research grants.

That level of funding made it an attractive career destination, not only for UK researchers but also for those from across the EU, and beyond.

However, a UK ­withdrawal from the 28-member state community, puts its universities at risk of losing most or all of that cash.

The IRC is now hoping to get a share of that for Ireland - which currently receives about €100m a year in EU research grants - by persuading funding decision-makers and leading researchers to make the switch.

The council's ad is directed specifically at researchers and includes a link to its research.ie website, which highlights the opportunities available.

If Britain is outside the EU, Ireland would be in the unique position of being the only English-speaking country in the European community.

IRC director Dr ­Eucharia Meehan, said the council ­believed that Ireland was ­ideally placed to now attract the best emerging researchers in the UK and across Europe.

"The message is that the opportunities are in Ireland and, through Ireland, researchers have guaranteed access to European research funding," she said.

A UK withdrawal could take some time and the ­British ­Government will seek to ­negotiate deals with the EU and will also be under pressure from higher education to replace funding lost from Brussels.

But, the uncertain climate has many UK-based researchers rethinking their futures - some forced to do so because of decisions already taken to stall funding, while others don't want to deal with the unknown.

The IRC is part of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which is currently examining the potential impact of Brexit across all areas of higher education and research.

Brexit could bring both gains and losses to Ireland. There are thousands of partnerships at all levels between Irish and UK higher education institutions, many supported by EU funding. In addition, there are between 12,000 and 15,000 Irish students studying in the UK each year.

Irish Independent

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