My first external visit of the week was to York, where I had discussions with the National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) and the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products. These have both been well ahead of the curve in recognising the need to integrate the plant-based fixation of carbon and its conversion, extraction and processing into high(er) value products besides foodstuffs and feed. Many issues remain in terms of rolling out the Knowledge Based BioEconomy on a large scale, but it is necessary to have things to roll out in the first place!
We had a very useful meeting of the Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum, including Minister for Business and Enterprise Mark Prisk. The number of examples of a move to sustainable, biologically based chemicals production is growing apace. Readers may be interested in the Forum’s autumn newsletter, as well as a paper by NESTA on Financing Industrial Biotechnology in the UK. It would seem that Finance for Industrial Biotechnology is something that is mainly likely to come not from the Venture Capital sector but more from large corporates within the relevant sectors.
On Tuesday we were delighted to hear and welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of a series of investments in BBSRC and other UK science, and in particular the £80M announced for the further development of facilities at the Institute for Animal Health at Pirbright. We were also very pleased to welcome Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts to the Institute of Animal Health for discussions, where I was also attending the relevant Institute Assessment Panel.
There was also an announcement of more detail on the £158M investment in e-infrastructure that had been previously trailed. We anticipate that details of BBSRC’s components of that should shortly be available. This investment will provide a significant encouragement to the development of e-science that will be to the great benefit of UK biology.
As part of my reading, I have been revisiting an interest in the role of fluctuations in enzyme catalysis and bioenergetics (shockingly, that paper is 25 years old!), and reading a couple of crowd-sourcing papers on social mechanisms and motivation. Full Open Access matters, although I note an unwelcome vanity subset of Open Access scholarly publishers (some of whom have certainly spammed me). By contrast, a new high-quality Open Access journal called eLife is coming. I also enjoyed Athene Donald’s accurate portrayal of the multiplicity of jobs that can come one’s way.
- Carroll MW. 2011. Why full open access matters. PLoS Biol 9:e1001210. Full, free text
- Pickard G, Pan W, Rahwan I, Cebrian M, Crane R, Madan A, Pentland A: Time-critical social mobilization. Science 2011; 334:509-512
- Welch GR, Kell DB: Not just catalysts; the bioenergetics of molecular machines. In Welch G, .R. (ed.): The Fluctuating Enzyme. New York: John Wiley, 1986:451-492
- Welch GR (ed.): The fluctuating enzyme. New York: Wiley, 1986
- Williams Woolley A, Chabris CF, Pentland A, Hashmi N, Malone TW: Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. Science 2010; 330:686-688