"We're going to turn the UK into a supercharged magnet, drawing scientists like iron filings from around the world."
As expected, Boris is striking a very different tone to his predecessor when it comes to innovation and immigration, vowing to supercharge UK science. Yesterday, at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire and later on Facebook, he announced that the Government will create a new fast-track visa system to attract the world's leading scientists and scrap the 2,000 a year cap on the Exceptional Talent visa.
Only a fraction of the Exceptional Talent Visas for scientists are actually being used, so getting rid of this cap isn't enough in itself. A lot goes into making a successful visa route – just look at how badly the new Start-Up and Innovator visas have been implemented.
And, ultimately, this goes nowhere near offsetting the loss of free movement with the EU, which makes it logistically very easy for scientists to work in other EU countries. Sure, there are challenges with setting up bank accounts and countless other micro-annoyances, but this visa will have to be very fast and convenient to avoid putting some scientists from coming here.
The other key advantage of free movement is a sense that people feel they have a right to live in another country and that they're welcome to build a life there. On the evening of the Referendum result, I was on a boat in the Thames with a hundred or so young, talented immigrants who were supposed to be celebrating a summer party for the world's largest youth led charity at which they worked or volunteered. The mood was that of a funeral – many felt that they were no longer wanted.
Boris is right to try to overturn this public relations disaster. He is lucky that Britain is a world-leader in science, technology and entrepreneurship, and that this won't change any time soon. But we're 83 days out from a Hard Brexit, and we don't have the institutions, funding agreements and regulatory frameworks in place to cushion the scientific community from what will be a nasty shock.
The Main Event
Continuing the theme of supercharging the economy, on Wednesday morning we have the brilliant and prolific academic Dr Nima Sanandaji speaking at what will be an optimistic lecture on knowledge-intensive jobs in the UK. These are the jobs that are crucial for income and productivity growth. Just let me know if you want to attend and feel free to share with your friends and colleagues.
Nicole Kobie considers a much-discussed issue over at Wired. It's more of a statement than a question:The UK's startup founders are way too posh. Here's how to fix that.
I have doubts about some of the evidence she cites, including The Sutton Trust's Elitist Britain report, which uses the Richtopia 2017 list as representative of successful entrepreneurs. Two of the main things that go into Richtopia's rankings are social media profiles and regular media coverage, which allows lots of non-entrepreneurs to sneak in.
However, there are plenty of data to back up her concerns. Kobie also cites the top research of Raj Chetty and John Van Reenen which shows that children who do well in maths are likely to become inventors, but only if their family is wealthy: "Indeed, children with parents in the top one per cent in terms of income were ten times as likely to become inventors than those who grew up in the bottom half in terms of wealth."
My colleague Sam Dumitriu is quoted in the article: "One of the things we're finding is that people who have become entrepreneurs are more likely to say that at school level it was talked about more often, or that they know someone who is an entrepreneur."
Sam is referencing a research report we're launching on Monday in partnership with Octopus Group, looking at the views and knowledge of young entrepreneurs. I'll be sending through more details about the report on Monday afternoon, but let me know if you would like me to email you a copy when it launches first thing on Monday morning.