So the spending review (PDF) is hurtling towards us and the magnitude of the challenge really does mean that we will all have to be as innovative as possible in how we carry out our activities moving forward. Of course productivity is a key area of focus for the government and the UK’s excellence in basic bioscience research positions it well to underpin future economic growth both in the short and long term. BBSRC has been supportive of the Agri-tech, Synthetic Biology and Industrial Biotechnology leadership councils in their articulation of the benefits of the bioeconomy to the UK and the coherent framework it provides for future investment. The bioeconomy stretches across all the Research Councils as well as a number of different government departments. Many countries have recognised the importance of the bioeconomy and have produced bioeconomy strategies including the USA (PDF), Australia and Sweden (PDF). These official national approaches have been academically reviewed by Louise Staffas and colleagues in the journal Sustainability.
Interestingly the ninth European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and Bioeconomy (EFIB) comes to Scotland in late October 2016. Scottish Enterprise is cohosting the event in Glasgow and they too seem enthusiastic about the potential of the bioeconomy. They state that the “UK Industrial Biotechnology market currently includes over 120 companies which generate an annual turnover of over £4Bn. These companies have grown rapidly – since 2010 their joint turnover has leaped by 53%, with an increase of 21% in the number of jobs available in the sector. All are set to continue growth for the foreseeable future.” More information on the potential of the bioeconomy can also be found on the BBSRC website.
I recently attended a G20 MACS (Ministers of Agriculture Chief Scientists) meeting in Turkey and was impressed by Turkey’s aspirations in agriculture and the investments they are making. Turkey’s vision for 2023 is that it will be among the top five countries in the world in terms of their agricultural economy, aiming for exports >$40Bn agricultural GDP >$150Bn. Animal diseases was one area that there was agreement on in terms of the importance of making sure efforts in this area were as coordinated as possible and we agreed that the UK would take the lead in establishing a working group from the G20 countries present to look at what is being done currently. This ties in well with BBSRC’s efforts in vaccinology and infectious disease.
In terms of plant and animal health I am very pleased that our video for the public on how research is important in this area is now live on our YouTube channel and I would be very interested in receiving feedback on its content.
One of ideas that came out of the discussions on sexism in science on BBC Radio 4 was the need to provide more support for people to deal with inappropriate behaviour in the workplace – sexist or otherwise. I have talked with people in the Swindon office, government and academia and I think we (BBSRC and others) could do more in this area in terms of providing helpful tips, behavioural strategies and pointers to existing materials. I would welcome people’s views on this – actually such material would also be useful in general in terms of dealing with difficult people and situations. Also if anyone knows of good material that is available on the internet please feel free to send me the links.
Finally I am on holiday for the next couple of weeks and am looking forward to reacquainting myself with my garden and veg patch (as well as the beagles). I hope everyone gets to enjoy some time to experience what seems to be shaping up to be quite a nice summer in terms of weather!