Nobel winner bemoans immigration curbs hampering recruitment of top brains

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An American-British scientist jointly named the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine has raised concerns over the possible impact of Government immigration policy on scientific research in Britain.

John O’Keefe, 74, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, who won the prestigious accolade on Monday said immigration rules were a “very, very large obstacle” in recruiting scientists from around the world.

Professor O’Keefe, who was born in New York but has dual citizenship with Britain, told the BBC: “I am very, very acutely aware of what you have to do if you want to bring people into Britain and to get through immigration. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but we should be thinking hard about making Britain a more welcoming place.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The UK is open to the brightest and best, including talented scientists and engineers, and it is wrong to suggest our policies prevent companies appointing the skilled workers they need.

“Whilst the Government has not shied away from taking tough action on abuse, the number of genuinely skilled people coming to the UK to fill skilled vacancies is on the rise – up 16 per cent last year.”

Meanwhile, two Japanese scientists and a Japanese-born American have won the Nobel Prize in physics for inventing blue light-emitting diodes.

It is a breakthrough that has spurred the development of LED technology to light up homes, computer screens and smartphones worldwide.

Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and naturalized US citizen Shuji Nakamura revolutionised lighting technology two decades ago when they came up with a long-elusive component for white LED lights.

In countless applications today, they have replaced less efficient incandescent and fluorescent lights. “They succeeded where everyone else had failed,” the Nobel committee said.