An important meeting last week was the last Council meeting of 2012, where substantive items included a detailed, high-level analysis of our research grant expenditure and portfolio, plus discussion and approval of our plans for rolling out further and exciting programmes in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy.
Archive for the year 2012
Last week began with attendance at part of our facilitated ‘ideas lab’ meeting, seeking to develop highly innovative thinking in how to capture dinitrogen biologically and thereby to lower (and eventually eliminate) our unsustainable dependence on fossil-fuel-energy-driven production of nitrogen fertiliser, including by fixation into ammonia via the Haber-Bosch process. I shall look forward to seeing how the facilitators helped drive the flux of creative juices of the delegates.
We were all delighted, in part following the Chancellor’s recent speech at the Royal Society (about which I blogged), that the autumn statement contained an extra (i.e. genuinely new) £600M capital investment in the research base. This is, to say the least, a very substantial endorsement of the importance of the research base to the UK’s growth and jobs agenda, and such an endorsement is something that is very well worth recording. Good cases, based on evidence and well made, do get results. [...]
One major meeting of last week was our latest Audit Board meeting, that covered a variety of areas of importance to ensuring the orderly running of BBSRC, including scrutiny of our financial audits and of potential risks of various kinds.
We also had the last of our community ‘conversations’ at a well-attended venue in London, constituting the last of our ‘roadshows’ for this season. One topic which we trailed involved some plans for rolling out funding in Industrial Biotechnology, where we plan further open meetings in the new year; these were also one discussion topic of an extended internal strategy meeting that took place last week. [...]
Last week saw the penultimate of our ‘roadshow’ conversations, held in Glasgow and attracting participants from both Scotland and elsewhere. As ever we had a very useful exchange of thoughts on a wide range of topics, not least about how to streamline the peer review process, where some very helpful suggestions were made. In line with an interesting recent editorial, one question elicited discussion on the extent to which funding should be concentrated on (the typically more tractable) model organisms, a question brought into focus by the comparatively little study devoted to Chalara fraxinea (the cause of ash die-back – here is a link on how to spot it) nor to thousands of other organisms. I won’t claim to have any answers here, but clearly folk may wish to give special thought to justifying the choice of organism in proposals.
Last week began with one of the regular meetings of the Chief Executives of MRC, EPSRC, BBSRC and the TSB with senior representatives of AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, along with representatives of the Bioindustry Association and the ABPI. This ‘Pharma Forum’ provides a useful vehicle for discussing cross-cutting research directions, especially given the net worth to the UK economy of the pharmaceuticals industry.
We also had one of the regular meetings of Chief Executives with Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, which again provided a very useful forum for the exchange of thoughts on a variety of topical and strategic issues as we move towards the autumn statement. [...]