The Manchester-based Research Collaboration Advice Team will come under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and “promote government advice on security-related topics, such as export controls, cyber security and protection of intellectual property”.
“Keeping the country safe is the primary responsibility of any government, and it is essential that we do everything in our power to support our brilliant scientists and researchers in pursuit of our ambition to become a global science superpower,” said business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
“This new team will give universities and institutions access to the latest advice on safe collaboration with international partners”
“This new team will give universities and institutions access to the latest advice on safe collaboration with international partners and protections against those who seek to harm the UK.”
Science minister Amanda Solloway advised that researchers “need to take precautions when collaborating internationally”.
“Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of measures being taken by the government to keep the UK safe from hostile activity,” added the government in a press release.
“Last month, the National Security and Investment Act received royal assent, strengthening the UK’s ability to investigate and intervene in potentially hostile mergers, acquisitions and other types of deals that could threaten our national security.
“The UK’s screening powers have also been extended to include assets like intellectual property, as well as companies.”
RCAT will “bolster joint efforts from universities and government departments to combat threats to sensitive UK research from hostile actors”, said Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group.
“Ultimately, this will help to keep the UK research sector open and allow the country to continue to benefit from secure collaboration with international partners, whether that is in the discovery of new treatments for diseases, or in the development of new technologies that can help us reach our net zero goal.”
The last few months have seen increased scrutiny of international collaboration projects and how working with certain state actors could undermine academic freedoms and global competitiveness.
A report earlier this year noted concerns in working with countries like China, although universities pushed back against it saying reducing dependence on Chinese collaboration and funding from international students was not practically possible.