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UK and US reach research agreement

The UK and US have agreed to develop a special relationship for science. The agreement between the two countries is intended to make it easier for researchers to travel, collaborate and share facilities.

The agreement is part of government efforts to develop research collaborations outside of the EU as the UK prepares for Brexit.

Among possible strategic areas of collaboration between the US and Britain are: synthetic biology; information technology and GM research.

The agreement was signed by Jo Johnson, the UK science minister who, speaking in Washington, said that the deal would help to ensure that the UK would maintain its global lead in many areas of research.

"Our continued collaboration with the US on science and innovation is beneficial to both of our nations, and through this agreement we are sharing expertise to enhance our understanding of many important topics that have the potential to be world changing," he said.

The move follows the UK referendum result to leave the European Union last year. Currently British universities, together with small businesses, receive £850m in research grants each year as a result of the UK’s involvement with the EU's research programmes and there are worries that much of this funding and the work itself could be lost.

Prof Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, welcomed the deal: "This agreement sends a welcome message that UK science remains outward looking. International research collaboration allows the rapid exchange of new ideas and expertise and it also allows us to address problems that no one country can on its own. It is an essential part of modern science.”

Mr Johnson also announced that the government was pledging £65m to participate in a US-based international project to learn more about sub-atomic particles called neutrinos.

The UK-led Dune project involves 150 scientists from 14 British universities and two laboratories run by the UK's Science and Technologies Facilities Council participating in a US-based effort involving 1,000 scientists from 31 countries.

Neil Tyler

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