Cover: International mobility of researchers

International mobility of researchers

Supplementary report: Perspectives from industry

Published Sep 27, 2017

by Becky Ioppolo, Catherine A. Lichten, Susan Guthrie

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Research Questions

  1. What are the patterns of researcher mobility in industry?
  2. What are the drivers of and barriers to mobility in industry?
  3. How are companies preparing (if at all) for the UK's forthcoming departure from the EU?
  4. How are companies preparing (if at all) for the UK's forthcoming departure from the EU?

RAND Europe recently published findings on the international mobility of researchers in the public sector. However, a significant proportion of the UK's research workforce is based in the private sector. Despite the importance of this group in the research system in the UK, there is little evidence available, through existing data sets or in the literature, on the mobility of researchers in industry. It is not even clear how many international researchers are working for UK-based companies. The UK's decision to leave the EU in 2016 has raised questions about the potential impact on research-intensive companies and their research staff if international mobility becomes more difficult, and what measures industry are putting in place to prepare for the opportunities and challenges to international recruitment following 'Brexit.' The Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, commissioned RAND Europe to help develop a better understanding of the mobility of researchers in UK industry. The study also aimed to understand how companies are preparing for the UK's forthcoming departure from the EU and the potential impact on their workforce.

Key Findings

  • Access to global talent was considered to a crucial consideration across all companies and sectors consulted in the study. This allows UK companies to fill skill gaps in the labour market and draw on skills from other markets when needed. International mobility also helps to facilitate cross-national working in companies with operations across many countries.
  • The UK is an attractive place to work because of the quality and vibrancy of the research. However, barriers include the cost of living compared to wages and the practical challenges in being able to work in the UK, such as being able to obtain visas. Larger companies were considered to be better equipped to overcome this challenge rather than smaller companies.
  • The decision to leave the EU has led to concerns from industry around access to talent and staff retention.
  • The majority of companies have not yet introduced measures to address the concerns following Brexit. This is mainly because there still remains a lot of uncertainty about the ability of companies to recruit and retain EU staff after the UK leaves the EU.
  • Comparable and standardised data on the levels of mobility among the UK industry's researchers is not readily available. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that non-UK staff are important to research-intensive companies and likely to make up a significant minority — in the region of 10 to 50 per cent of the research workforce.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the Royal Society and conducted by RAND Europe.

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