The first part of last week was spent at the superb Bioeconomy in action meeting (twitter @bioeconomy_dk) arranged under the auspices of the Danish Presidency of the EU. Recognising the integrated nature of the bioeconomy that starts with the plant-based (and possibly algal) photosynthesis of biomass and creates high value products, speaker after speaker saw this as the vision for the creation of sustainable growth and jobs. The meeting was far too broad and detailed to repeat all of the messages, but some came through both strongly and regularly, such as the need to integrate farmers into the vision for food and non-food crops, the importance (stressed especially by Ruud Lubbers, ex-Prime Minister of the Netherlands) of taxing net CO2 production, and the key role of scientific research in effecting sustainable intensification of agriculture and subsequent biotransformations. The decline in manufacturing in the UK in favour of financial ‘services’ means that we are a little behind parts of Europe, but the situation is retrievable as we are at the beginning of the transition (back) to a bioeconomy. Many processes are already operating at scale, e.g. a huge bio-succinate plant for bioplastics built by Novamont in Italy, and the very large IAR Cluster biorefinery in the Champagne-Ardenne and Picardy regions of France. Neither did the meeting forget the importance of nutrition in a healthy lifestyle, and the likely diabesity epidemic if we do not act. Overall, an inspiring meeting, and it is worth giving the link to the European Bioeconomy website explicitly.

As part of this, I also took especial note of the fact that Germany had implemented a Bioeconomy Council, something the UK might wish to consider emulating.

Innovation was the core focus of the finals of our Innovator of the Year 2012 competition, with 9 outstanding finalists and with the winners being presented with their prizes by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Many congratulations in particular to Prof George Lomonossoff of the John Innes Centre, the overall Innovator of the Year for his work on the production of vaccines in plants.

It is not 100% clear whether the stagnation of the UK economy is due more to a lack of supply of credit or a lack of demand for goods, but I see that the debtonation blog argues for the latter. Certainly in biology most fluxes are driven by demand, with a more recent paper on sugar accumulation in sugar cane providing an interesting example.

I was pleased to see the potential as a diagnostic, as an immunogenic antigen, and as a TB vaccine target of the Rpf proteins that we discovered in 1998, and I also enjoyed 10 simple rules for starting a company and Athene Donald’s latest blog, on statistics.

Speaking of statistics, my favourite tweet of the week, whose origin (or at least an earlier Web version) is here, went: “A Bayesian is one who, vaguely expecting a horse, and catching a glimpse of a donkey, strongly believes he has seen a mule.” Chasing it down also led me to a very nice site illustrating a variety of graphics for data visualisation in R. Although I have been involved in its use, this is a language I should one day learn!

And on that note, the blog is having a week off and will reappear after Easter.

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