Over the next few weeks, until I leave BBSRC at the end of the month, I want to focus on some of the areas of the BBSRC portfolio activities which I think have been particularly important in terms of our deliverables over the last two and half years.
BBSRC’s spending review preparations have focused very much on our role in building the bioeconomy and in driving the argument for a Bioeconomy Strategy for the UK. Many countries have such a Bioeconomy Strategy which can be used to align spending, regulation and policy across government and funders. Certainly the USA’s Bioeconomy Blueprint (PDF) is being used in this way. A number of sectors can benefit from bio-based innovation and therefore contribute to a thriving bioeconomy. These include bioenergy, feed stocks, chemical, materials, pharmaceuticals, health care, consumer personal care, packaging, agri-food and drink. Recently the opportunities and challenges, especially the cultural ones, in the area of agriculture were nicely discussed by Angela Karp and her colleagues (Nature Plants 2015:1. 1-3).
However the challenges that are encompassed within a bioeconomy framework are global. As such I think that a bioeconomy framework provides a good basis not only for informing the UK’s strategy but also the way in which the UK’s excellent bioscience can be used to address global challenges. We have some really good videos about the UK bioeconomy and BBSRC’s role in it on our website. BBSRC also hosted a dinner table at the Bioindustry Association (BIA) dinner last week where we discussed what we should be doing both at the Research Council level and in government with guests from industry and academia.
This week the Research Councils published our impact reports for 2014/15 financial year.
Each Research Council has produced its own report, showcasing specific examples of the impact of investment through their various awards, programmes and collaborations. The BBSRC’s full report can be viewed at www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/impact-report-2015-pdf/ and highlights included:
- Spinout company Xelect Ltd is adding £600 per tonne to the value of farmed Atlantic salmon through genetic approaches to increase salmon fillet yield. The company, established in 2013 by Professor Ian Johnston and Dr Tom Ashton from the University of St Andrews and based on BBSRC-funded research, provides genetic services to major aquaculture companies
- BBSRC funding enabled a researcher from the University of Exeter to spend a year working at Shell Biodomain in Chester. While there, the researcher developed a way of using bacteria to produce biofuels that can be used in unmodified conventional engines. Trials are now underway to increase yields of the biofuel and improve the energy and cost efficiency of the process
Of course it can be a long time before the true impacts of research are realised and therefore it is particularly important for academics and industry recipients of BBSRC funding let us know about any downstream impacts. The REF was an excellent source for CASE studies and BBSRC mining of these has produced a powerful report (PDF) showing the long term impacts of BBSRC-funded research.