The beginning of a new year often leads us to reflect on events of the previous year and to look forward, or even predict, ‘hot’ areas for the coming year. I will skip over the reflections of 2016 and instead look forward to some of the key themes for BBSRC in 2017.
One theme that I look forward to continue engaging with and promoting in 2017 is the celebration of inspirational bioscience – from curiosity-inspired research, pushing back the frontiers of bioscience research and understanding, to research motivated by solving a particular challenge or problem. I regularly highlight outcomes of the research BBSRC invests in when I am on external visits and also to BBSRC Council – and it is one of the real pleasures of my role.
During 2017 I am confident we will see more of a focus on innovation, relating to the development of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. We were all delighted by the Chancellor’s announcement, as part of the 2016 Autumn Statement, of the National Productivity Investment Fund, including the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Research Councils are working together with Innovate UK, via the Knowledge Transfer Network, to hold a series of engagement events (16-26 January) that will provide the opportunity to consult with UK research and business communities on key challenges that should be addressed as part of the challenge fund – do consider registering for an event near you!
In parallel with this, and building on work BBSRC has played a leading role in, on 1 December 2016 BEIS launched a call for evidence for the UK Bioeconomy, which is open until 29 January 2017. I would encourage you all to consider submitting evidence to this consultation as it will play a key role in shaping the UK’s Bioeconomy strategy.
BBSRC has a strong track record of supporting and recognising innovation and impact, exemplified by our Innovator of the Year competition, now in its ninth year. For 2017 two new categories have been introduced, one recognising the impacts realised by early career researchers and the other recognising international impact. The call for nominations is open now and closes on 15 February 2017, 4pm. Look around and ask yourself who in your organisation is having an impact and then encourage them to submit a nomination!
I am very optimistic that there will be a strong showing from early career researchers in nominations to Innovator of the Year and I will be very interested to learn whether nominees had previously participated in the Biotechnology YES
competition. I had the pleasure of attending the BiotechYES 2016 finals in London shortly before Christmas and presenting the prize to the overall winners – the team from The Babraham Institute, Cambridge. The standard of the business ideas developed by the teams and their elevator pitches were amazing – and it was clear that the participating PhD students and post-docs had learnt an incredible amount in a relatively short time. I remember encouraging my own PhD students to get involved in Biotechnology YES – they too certainly found it to be a very rewarding experience.
I hope you all found some time to rest and relax over the festive break – 2017 looks set to be another action packed year for BBSRC and UK bioscience.