The last week has been fairly momentous for me on the personal front as I announced last Monday that I will be leaving BBSRC at the end of February, after the spending review allocations. This is something that I do with mixed emotions as I have really enjoyed my time at BBSRC and working with the fabulous team here at the Swindon office. I will also miss the interactions with the institutes and the researchers we fund at universities. I have learnt a lot about the many different aspects of BBSRC science from wheat to gribbles but I still have three months left and there’s a lot to do!!
Of course there were other, bigger things happening with the publication of the Nurse Review of the Research Councils and the announcements of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The news for research in the spending review was very positive in light of the challenging financial environment with protection of the £4.7Bn current annual research budget and the addition of a cumulative amount, over the spending review period, of £1.5Bn for a Global Challenges Research Fund. There was also a reconfirmation of the £6.9Bn for science capital. There were other announcements of relevance to bioscience such as the £1Bn Ross Fund for infectious diseases, capital for Defra capital estates, doubling of the Newton Fund by 2020 and the announcement of three new agri-tech centres. Innovate UK has had its budget maintained but £168M of grants to industry will be shifted to loans by 2019/20.
The Nurse Review was published a week ahead of the Spending Review. It echoes a number of steps that the Research Councils have already begun the move towards, including strengthening collective working and bringing together our operational activities. The Review recommendations also offer opportunities for increasing cross-disciplinary engagement and ways of working.
We are now working with Government, our staff and communities to understand and shape the changes from the Nurse recommendations, that the Chancellor indicated in the Spending Review, will now be adopted.
I hope that the cross-Government Animal and Plant Health Strategy will be published soon. We are making great progress in scoping out the detail of two of the pilots we want to undertake as part of the strategy. A workshop was held in London a few weeks ago that brought participants together, learning from other efforts such as iSense and NEON. The range of skills in the room, from people with experience of the Internet of things to engineers and plant and animal scientists, was very diverse and brought together people who hadn’t previously worked together.
All this work will feed into the agri-food aspects of the next BBSRC delivery plan. The coming weeks will be spent (apart from Christmas) on formulating our delivery plans across our portfolio in preparation for our final allocations which can be expected in early 2016 across the Research Councils.