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  1. ITV Report

Would 'Brexit' threaten world class science and research in the East?

A scientist works in the research lab at Astex Pharmaceuticals on Cambridge Science Park Photo: ITV News Anglia

Research, innovation, science and technology are the very cornerstones of Cambridge. A city with 92 nobel prizes to its name - the work carried out here is world renowned.

Much of that work relies on foreign funding, whilst many of the students and the scientists here come from abroad.

At the Cambridge headquarters of Astex Pharmaceuticals, 20% of the workforce are recruited from the EU.

Their Chief Executive told ITV News Anglia that the free movement of scientists in and out of the UK is crucial to their success.

'We're very focused at getting the best people - they may be from India, Germany, Cambridge. We don't view it in a geographical sense - we must get the best people because we're trying to discover drugs for cancer and that requires the best brains.'

– Harren Jhoti, CEO, Astex Pharmaceuticals
EU students generate £247.5m for the regional economy. Credit: ITV News Anglia

But not all scientists think Britain leaving the EU would be a bad idea.

Leave campaigners say a vote to get out have little impact on science and research, pointing to other non EU countries such as Switzerland and Canada which enjoy good access to EU research schemes.

According to the Royal Society, the UK paid £4.2bn to the EU research budget between 2007 and 2013 but won back nearly £7bn over that same period. And while EU funding was only 3% of the UK's total research spend in that time, it is vital money for universities, where it represented around 11% of their total research income.

£4.2bn
The amount the UK paid into the EU research budget between 2007 and 2013
£6.8bn
The amount the UK won back from the EU in research funding over the same period
The University of Cambridge estimates that around 20 per cent of grants for research in the city come from Europe. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Analysis from Universities UK shows that in the East of England, EU students generate £247.5m for the regional economy and support 2,295 jobs.

The University of Cambridge estimates that around 20 per cent of grants for research in the city come from Europe, while around 100 organisations from in and around the county are registered to take part in EU research.

£248m
Amount generated by EU students for East of England economy
20%
Proportion of research grants in Cambridge that come from Europe

Like most academic institutions, the University of Cambridge has come out in support of the remain campaign.

It's a decision that has caused some controversy among academics.

I know that the Vice Chancellor has not committed himself to other positions in the past but he has committed the whole university to supporting membership of the EU. This is an intellectual community where people should be free to hold their views so I've been very disappointed by that.

– Chris Bickerton, Lecturer in Politics, University of Cambridge

Click below to watch Chloe Keedy's report.

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