This report hails the government’s renewed focus on industrial strategy as a major opportunity to help the UK compete on the world stage, but warns that Brexit must not restrict access to engineering skills from across Europe.
Engineering a future outside the EU: securing the best outcome for the UK has been compiled by an alliance of the UK's professional engineering organisations led by the Royal Academy of Engineering and representing over 450,000 engineers. It draws on wide-ranging consultation with engineers from all corners of the profession, including from academia, industry and the public sector. With engineering contributing at least £280 billion in gross value added to the economy – 20% of the total – the report aims to inform government of the key issues that impact on the UK’s engineering performance as it forms its position on leaving the EU.
The report highlights the challenge that Brexit could present to the supply of skilled engineers from the EU, who are essential to maintaining the world-class quality and success of UK engineering companies and universities. In academia, engineering has proportionally more staff originating from the EU (15%), than across all subjects as a whole.
It also highlights that innovation is critical to the UK’s economy and productivity, as sectors with high concentrations of graduate engineers report greater than average levels of innovation activity and innovation-related income alongside greater productivity.
The UK has a globally excellent and highly productive research and innovation base, to which EU support and collaboration has significantly contributed. The report warns, however, that losing access to EU research and innovation funding programmes would pose a considerable risk to the quality and quantity of UK research and innovation, and in turn to UK GDP.
In response to these potential challenges, the report calls on government and the engineering community to work together to take decisive action on the engineering skills crisis, as well as to develop a Shortage Occupation List for engineering positions that cannot be filled domestically in the short term. It advocates straightforward solutions such as temporary visas for skilled engineers from EU countries with the specialist skills that the UK lacks.
The report also calls on the UK government to extend procedures for intra-company transfers to cover EU citizens, as many companies require their engineers to move freely to support and fulfil contracts.