Latest Brexit Risk: Cambridge's World Class Status

CAMBRIDGE, England – Just months after Britain voted to leave the European Union, plant scientist Philip Wigge started looking for jobs abroad, according to a report from the Dow Jones newswires made available to EFE Saturday.

“This resurgence of nationalism was totally surprising for me,” he said, adding that he was no longer happy for his young children to grow up here.

Within weeks, the 45-year-old German national will complete his move to the University of Potsdam in Germany, ending his seven-year association with the prestigious University of Cambridge.

Dr. Wigge’s departure embodies a big concern for academics in this historic university town: that Brexit will spark an exodus of talented researchers. That, they fear, could take the shine off Cambridge’s world-renowned status and render the city less attractive to the bioscience and tech companies that have fueled an economic boom in the city.

British lawmakers plan to vote Tuesday on Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal to leave the EU. A rejection of May’s divorce deal likely means a delay in the UK’s exit from the EU, now scheduled for March 29, which could throw the academic community into further disarray.

Cambridge has grown rapidly in recent years, driven by an influx of high-tech and bioscience businesses like AstraZeneca, Microsoft and Apple, eager to capitalize on links with the cutting-edge science taking place here.

A study by consulting firm Development Economics, commissioned by AstraZeneca, estimated that Brexit could constrain the cluster’s growth by around 15 percent by 2032. That drag would come from lower availability of research funding, a diminished ability to attract the world’s best researchers, and lowered access to finance for startups.

For now, companies are betting that Brexit won’t seriously reduce the city’s attractiveness. “Cambridge is unique in terms of the quality of science it has,” said Mene Pangalos, a research and development chief

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