The UK is a small country, with just 1% of the world’s land area and 1% of the world’s human population (albeit with 12% of the scientific citations), and to continue to punch so far above our weight scientifically we have to make the most of our intellectual and physical assets. The Spirit of the Age thus involves collaboration rather than competition. However, to collaborate one needs to know the skills and interests of one’s potential collaborators. To this end we organised a highly successful conference to bring together folk from the BBSRC strategically funded family of Institutes, held at the John Innes Conference Centre in Norwich.

The sessions were purposely organised around themes in which there were parallel activities in different Institutes. We also had a number of plenary presentations, from Council members David Baulcombe, David Gregory and Peter Grindrod, plus a splendid ‘after dinner’ speech from Council member Russell Foster on public engagement. In addition we had an excellent set of presentations and displays around Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation. I am not going to be egregious enough to highlight specific talks, but unlike most scientific conferences – where quite a fraction of talks can be dull, meretricious or incomprehensible – all the talks were extremely interesting, and speakers clearly recognised the value of conveying their science and innovation to a scientifically ‘mixed’ audience; consequently I learned a massive amount. I already know of several collaborations or projects that will be initiated simply as a result of the meeting, and we shall aim to capture more of these via a questionnaire that will be sent out in the next week or two.

The conference was followed by an excellent meeting of BBSRC Council.

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