Last week’s first formal meeting was a dinner hosted in London by Prof Willis Lin from the Taiwan National Science Council, as part of a Taiwan-UK workshop on aspects of stem cell biology. This followed from the BBSRC-NSC MoU that we signed in 2010 and the workshop I attended in Taiwan last year.

We also had a wide-ranging and useful meeting with colleagues at DfID, scoping out our joint activities, and noting the renewed impetus given to some of these by the Prime Minister’s global hunger event (hashtag #globalhunger). Improving agriculture through science was also a key theme of a meeting with George Freeman, MP for mid-Norfolk and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science & Technology in Agriculture.

I gave two external talks last week. The first was to Life Sciences graduate students at Cambridge (the SymBLS meeting), that also involved many thoroughly interesting informal discussions with these very bright students. The second was at a meeting of the Virtual Physiological Human Network of Excellence, where I also had the opportunity to discuss co-funding possibilities with Paul Brazhnik from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Healthy soils underpin the entirety of land-based agriculture, and so I enjoyed two very nice new papers involving soils. The first showed a clear and unexpected relationship between soil moisture content and convective rainfall, with important implications for climate prediction models, while the second highlighted the benefits of deep-rooted perennial crops under drought-prone conditions, a topic on which readers will know that I am very keen.

I also enjoyed reading the latest Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum Newsletter, including a new biodegradable plastic, as the rapidly increasing interest in Industrial Biotechnology makes it clear that this indeed is going to be an important area for modern life sciences activities.

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