Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Taiwanese National Science Council and BBSRC last November, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Taiwan last week, necessarily for a short but very intense, useful and enjoyable programme.

The first port of call was the College of Life Sciences of the National Taiwan University in Taipei where I was able to speak with a good number of the Faculty and also gave a talk about BBSRC’s funding models, as well as an academic seminar to a full (and evidently well-informed) house on the cellular uptake of pharmaceutical drugs.

We then visited the new NTU Centre for Genomic Medicine, where we were shown an impressive array of ‘omics’ technologies – some of it (such as a variety of novel mass spectrometers) designed and built in-house.

The next visit was for discussions with Deputy Minster Chen and colleagues at the National Science Council itself, where we both presented our various high-end strategies and looked for over suitable overlaps where collaboration might be encouraged. UK scientists should refer to the page linking to our various schemes.

One result of the Memorandum of Understanding was an International workshop, very relevant to our strategy in Bioenergy and Industrial Biotechnology, on Green Chemistry and Biomass, held in the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan, in the south of Taiwan, that we reached via a very fast and efficient high-speed ‘bullet train’. The focus of this workshop was the biology and biotechnology of Miscanthus grass, a significant element of the BSBEC activity. Taiwan (as do other parts of east Asia) has a very significant biodiversity of Miscanthus species, and the large germplasm collection already housed in IBERS will make assessment of the genetic basis of various phenotypic traits a much more attainable endeavour for assisting breeding. I gave the opening keynote lecture at his meeting, covering both BBSRC’s more general interests and the role of below-ground biomass in carbon sequestration, and also had the opportunity for scientific discussions with the participants and with other Faculty at NCKU.

Finally, we were the guests of the British Council at a useful networking dinner back in Taipei.

I am confident that this was the first of many mutually beneficial collaborations from which much exciting science will flow. Taiwan has a strong economy, and a clear recognition of the roles of science and innovation in retaining and enhancing it. There were of course many activities that we did not see on this visit, but heard enough about to encourage a return to this ambitious and attractive country when time permits.

Last week we also announced the resignation of Prof Janet Allen, BBSRC’s Director of Research. Janet made a great many major contributions to our agenda and our activities, and we all wish her well for her future activities.

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