UK creates Office for Talent for ‘easy, quick’ access to scientific visas

Alok Sharma (PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images).
Alok Sharma (PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images).

UK business secretary Alok Sharma on Wednesday (1) published a new Research and Development Roadmap to lay out plans for what the British government says will cement the UK’s place as a leading “research and science superpower”.

It includes the creation of a new Office for Talent to be based at No. 10 Downing Street with delivery teams across government departments with the aim of making the immigration of scientists, researchers and innovators “simple, easy and quick” from countries around the world, including India.

“The Office will begin work immediately to review the effectiveness of the current rules and ensure excellent customer service across the immigration system, so that it is simple, easy, and quick,” said the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

“They will also help those coming to the UK better understand the opportunities on offer and break down any barriers they might face,” it said.

The government also confirmed that international students who complete a PhD from next summer 2021 will be able stay on for three years after their study to live and work in the UK.

This adds to the already unveiled two-year post-study work visas for international students who complete undergraduate and Master’s degrees from later this year.

The government says that its student visa route as part of the new points-based immigration system will bring in a number of ”improvements” to further streamline the immigration process.

These include extending the window in which prospective students can make visa applications, removing study time limits at postgraduate level and allowing all students to switch any other type of visa from within the UK.

The UK government’s Business Department said the new Research and Development Roadmap puts pursuing ground-breaking research, attracting global talent, and cutting unnecessary red tape at the forefront of its long-term plan to ensure the UK is the best place in the world for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live, work and innovate.

“The UK has a strong history of turning new ideas into revolutionary technologies – from penicillin to graphene and the world wide web. Our vision builds on these incredible successes to cement Britain’s reputation as a global science superpower,” said Sharma.

“The R&D Roadmap sets out our plan to attract global talent, cut unnecessary red tape and ensure our best minds get the support they need to solve the biggest challenges of our time,” the Indian-origin Cabinet minister said.

A flagship Innovation Fellowship Programme will also be launched, sponsored by Downing Street to attract leading digital and tech talent from across the UK and from overseas into government itself.

Those admitted to the programme will help transform the delivery of public services by accelerating the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and approaches from industry, academia and civil society.

Around £300 million will be brought forwards to upgrade scientific infrastructure across the UK through the government’s World Class Labs funding scheme to improve access to better lab equipment, digital resources, and research facilities.

“Coronavirus has shown us the agility, creativity and innovative thinking of our world-leading institutions, scientists and researchers to tackle this disease and save people’s lives. We want to harness this expertise to rejuvenate science and research across the UK, building a future that is greener, safer and healthier,” UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said.

“The R&D Roadmap will help us achieve our ambitions by unleashing the potential of science and research to embrace diversity, resilience and adaptability while tackling our biggest challenges such as achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Solloway said.