As you may well know, as a public body we’ve been restricted on our communications in the run-up to the election and so I’ve been unable to keep up my usual run of blogs. We are now clear of so-called ‘purdah’ and a lot has happened in bioscience in the 12 weeks since my last blog. So this will be a quick canter through just a few of the many things which caught my eye…

Barley made the front cover of Nature in April for a high quality genome assembly of the crop – congratulations to everyone involved! Running through the list of author affiliations emphasises just how international science is. Alongside UK academics (including Dundee’s Robbie Waugh as a corresponding author) sit academics from Australia, China, USA and seven European countries. Barley is of course an important global crop which gives me an excellent cue to invite you to browse the new Global Food Security programme website which will launch next week.

Copyright: London Event Photography
Dr Shelby Temple, Overall Winner – Innovator of the Year 2017. Copyright: London Event Photography

In May, BBSRC held our annual Innovator of the Year awards and once again we had a fantastic set of finalists. This year we introduced two new categories – one for International Impact and the other for Early Career Researchers. It was a very hard fought competition – with the selection panel decision arriving minutes before the event began – but the overall winner’s crown went to Shelby Temple. He turned his work studying the eyes of various sea creatures into a fast, simple and affordable way to assess a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration – the leading cause of incurable blindness in the developed world. What’s so great about Shelby’s innovation is that it is built directly on frontier bioscience discoveries and Shelby very much deserved to win for recognising the potential for his work to improves lives.

A recent BioIndustry Association report found that the UK is the third largest global hub for biotech investment – UK-based biotech companies raised £1.13 billion of investment last year – and is set to close the gap on second place. The report focuses on pharma and healthcare and it further demonstrates the strength of the UK bioeconomy. A report we and BEIS commissioned this time last year found that around 5.2 million UK jobs are supported by the bioeconomy right across the country. In my view this, coupled with our world-leading research, puts bioscience in an excellent position to support economic growth and wellbeing.

I didn’t get a chance to blog about our 2016 impact report (PDF) which provides a superb snapshot of how investment in bioscience research provides value to tax-payers – in terms of better wellbeing, jobs, economic growth and more. Thanks to all grant holders for providing this evidence through ResearchFish® and helping build the case for continuing investment in bioscience.

Finally, the past 12 weeks have been a period of intense training for two cycling challenges I am taking on this summer – the first on 18 June. I am raising money for a charity which sends bikes to schools in Africa so children can travel more easily and benefit from an education. If you would like to support me see my JustGiving page – many thanks.

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