This week saw the first formal speech delivered by the UK Research and Innovation CEO designate, Sir Mark Walport, where he elaborated on the collective vision for UK Research and Innovation – you can watch the full speech for yourself.

The formation of UK Research and Innovation is a topic I am frequently quizzed on when out and about at events and visits, understandably given it is one of the biggest changes to take place in the UK’s funding landscape in decades. It was the 1965 Science and Technology Act that led to the establishment of the research councils and while there have been changes since, such as in 1994 when BBSRC and EPSRC were established, none on the same scale as the creation of UK Research and Innovation.

I know from discussions I have had with colleagues from the bioscience community that there has been some skepticism about the need for the establishment of UK Research and Innovation. In his speech Sir Mark laid out the wide breadth of changes the world is experiencing from global demographics to how research is done. He made the compelling case that, to be in the best possible position to address the challenges these changes bring, more integrated and synergistic collaboration between public funders is, as highlighted in the Nurse Review (PDF), a rationale solution.

The research BBSRC invests in not only addresses very significant global challenges (for example, food security, heath, bio-renewable resources) but has been integral to, and benefited massively from, the changes in how research is done. To pick just one of many examples, you may have seen last month the news of a release of a free mobile game BioBlox2D. This emerged from a BBSRC-funded project looking at how to crowd source solutions to protein docking problems and is a collaboration between Goldsmiths’ and Imperial College London. The mobile game is primarily educational and the team behind it plan to create a version which will harness the power of the citizen science to solve real biological problems. In this one project we have real interdisciplinarity, creativity, big data, public engagement and world class research which aspires to push back the frontiers of human knowledge.

The bringing together of the research councils, Research England and Innovate UK will create a ‘one stop shop’ if you like for researchers and businesses – both nationally and internationally. Such an organisation does not exist in other nations – as became very evident when I attended the Funding Agency Presidents’ discussion forum at the Science and Technology in Society Forum in Kyoto, Japan last October (see my previous blog on this). Being able to speak with a unified voice internationally surely has to provide an advantage to the UK and one which we should capitalise on to help maintain the vibrancy of the UK research community.

The focus of the constituent councils will be on leading their disciplines and BBSRC will continue to work with our communities to champion bioscience. Building on this strong base, we will bring the collective intelligence of the councils to bear on activities such as: supporting the best researchers to tackle both fundamental and applied research questions; developing talent; supporting a holistic approach to diversity across all activities; developing an infrastructure roadmap for research and innovation for the UK; supporting collaboration, engagement and partnership and paying attention to the conduct of research. Together these elements will support and deliver the three key pillars of UK Research and Innovation – knowledge, economy and society.

Sir Mark was very clear that to be considered a success UK Research and Innovation has to deliver much more than the sum of its constituent parts. So, rather than being additive we are aiming for integrated and synergistic interactions – only by achieving this will UK Research and Innovation deliver its mission to be ‘the best research and innovation agency in the world’.

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