The last few weeks have been important for UK science. I was heavily involved working with a team across the Research Councils to stage the RCUK Research, Innovate, Grow event that was held on 2 July in Westminster. The aim of this event was to showcase the exciting research that the Research Councils invest in from both an academic and industrial point of view, identify key areas of focus and issues to address going forward. There were some really excellent talks including from speakers representing AstraZeneca, Rolls Royce, the Farr Institute, EMBL-EBI, Synthace, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Innovate UK.

There were consistent messages in the presentations about the importance of excelling in basic research, accessing and leveraging private investment, the development of transferable skills, sharing of expertise and the need for collaboration. All of these things contribute to the innovation ecosystem in the UK. There are tremendous opportunities provided by new technologies and the availability of large data sets from agriculture, bioscience and biomedical research. In his opening address, Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science challenged the audience saying that: “We have a once in a generation opportunity, right now, to find an extra gear for the British economy, and ensure higher living standards for the next generation to come”. As well as highlighting the support of the Chancellor for science he also said: “I give you my personal commitment that I will also be a champion for Great British science and research”. The full text of his speech is available at www.gov.uk/government/speeches/research-innovate-grow-the-role-of-science-in-our-long-term-economic-plan.

Later that day the Dowling report (PDF) on business-academia interactions was published. The report makes some very good recommendations that will clearly make a difference when implemented. Coming from industry I always like to see clear timelines and accountability for delivery on recommendations so, although there was accountability identified, I think more clarity is needed in some cases and also what the measures of success will be. It’s hard to hold organisations, institutions or people accountable when there aren’t clear outcomes by which they can be judged!

The Royal Society’s week long Summer Science Exhibition was held last week – featuring a range of exhibits, some of which were from our community, and lots of events. By all accounts it was a great success and example of successful public engagement.

Of course I still get to do one of the many fun parts of my job which is going out and about seeing more of the great bioscience we have in the UK. I took a trip up north this week with David McAllister, BBSRC Head of Skills and Careers, to visit Fera and was very impressed by the breadth and quality of the science I was shown. It enabled me to catch up on the various bee health projects that are ongoing between BBSRC and Fera as part of the Insect Pollinator Initiative and I also talked about the animal and plant health strategy work we have been doing.

Lastly I would like to congratulate Luke Alphey as he joins an elite group of innovators since he was named one of Europe’s top inventors by the 2015 European Inventor Award for his ground-breaking work on the control of mosquitos. This work was funded initially by BBSRC with his spinout receiving further funding from Innovate UK and is a great example of excellent research with impact. Clearly we were ahead of the game awarding him Innovator of the Year in 2014! But I am also pushing both Oxitec and Luke to see how this technology could be applied to oak processionary moth given they can get it to work in moths as well as mosquitos. The problem seems to be hairy, spiny caterpillars that can cause allergies – any answers anyone?

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