This week the Government announced legal changes that will allow the UK to scrutinise a far wider number of potential foreign takeovers of strategic British businesses. We have existing means to protect critical defence assets. However Coronavirus has highlighted the vital strategic nature of many other key areas - including areas of medical research and diagnostics.
While the UK will invariably seek to provide global assistance from the breakthroughs made by UK scientists, this cannot be said for all. The economic disruption caused by Coronavirus may result in some businesses, highly sought-after given their expertise, being vulnerable to takeover, including by foreign state backed entities.
These new measures are needed in order to protect UK businesses and security. The UK is playing a leading role in researching and developing vaccines and solutions to the Coronavirus: including two vaccine trials. Only last week researchers in the UK identified the first (repurposed) drug that is effective in relieving symptoms in serious cases. This drug, a cheap and widely available steroid, can cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. The WHO has called for it to be adopted globally.
Foreign Direct Investment into the UK is a huge benefit to the country - from massive investment in professional services (last year the UK received more such investment than any other European country), through to the Japanese car manufacturers recommitting to their UK factories. However while investment and co-operation is very welcome we cannot afford to be blasé about critical skills and know-how being developed in the UK.
With the country steadily returning to work and the benefits of the massive package of economic support to bridge the gap we are all working to ensure the economic downturn is short lived.
However in any downturn it is often young people who are economically most adversely affected.
We need to ensure the UK continues to produce high quality jobs in the cutting edge technologies - including biotech.
I know our young people are ambitious and determined to make their way in their chosen careers. I am always incredibly impressed speaking to college students, at Collyer’s or The Weald, about their career plans and goals. We are also fortunate to live in an area with a number of exciting medical, science and technology companies who are regularly looking for new talent to join their teams.
However aside from economic uncertainty we should recognise that Coronavirus will be having an emotional impact on our young people who in many cases will be leaving school or University after months of disruption and without even a final goodbye to their friends and teaching staff.
Fortunately young people are increasing able, like the rest of us, to socialise, as lockdown restrictions are eased and it was great last Friday to see the Snack Wagon, a mobile Youth Worker service which works with young people aged between 13 and 18 years olds “setting up shop” in Horsham Park. I do hope more of our important services to young people are able to resume normal service soon.
Photo Credit: The “Snack Wagon” is back engaging with young people - last week setting up shop in Horsham Park.