Along with other research councils, BBSRC has recently published its annual impact report ‘Harnessing the power of biology’ (PDF).

When I review drafts of our impact report I am always surprised by the unexpected discoveries, developments and impacts that feature – many of these would have been hard to predict at the outset of a particular programme of research and history tells us this is so often the case for frontier bioscience.

One particular example that has stood out for me this year, and which is highlighted in our impact report, is based on BBSRC-supported behavioural neuroscience research led by Rob Honey at Cardiff University. This research has underpinned transformative changes made to the decision-making guidance used by UK Fire and Rescue Services incident commanders – and has attracted international interest. For me this exemplifies both the breadth and range of impacts that the research BBSRC invests in can have.

An example from further afield stems from research funded through the joint BBSRC-Department for International Development Sustainable Agricultural Research for International Development programme. A collaboration between The University of Nottingham and the Oil Palm Research Institute in Ghana has led to the development of diagnostics that, within 30 minutes, can detect a deadly pathogen of coconut palms in Ghana. This research has also identified coconut palms that are resistant to this pathogen. I’m a particular fan of coconut so this is welcome news!

Our 2017 Impact report includes the latest analysis of the information we have collected to date through Researchfish®. In my blog last year I said I would be interested to see how the data would evolve, well evolve they have. In the latest full dataset we have 45,635 instances of research publications – up from 36,950 at the end of the previous collection period. As a community you have clearly been active in disseminating the outcomes of your research – engagement activities now total 14.936, up from 9,630 in the previous collection dataset. Collaborations are up to 5038 (from 4420), spin-outs at 84 (previously 70) and software and technical products up from 550 to 776. I cannot stress enough how important these data and their analyses are for evaluating the performance of the bioscience research and innovation ecosystem and want to thank all members of our community for making timely contributions and encourage you to continue to do so!

The publication of our impact report follows on closely from the announcement by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for BEIS, of the Transforming Food Production Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programme at the National Farmers’ Union conference. I have been closely involved in the development of this challenge, working with colleagues across Innovate UK, BBSRC, NERC, BEIS and Defra, so I was particularly delighted when this £90 million programme was announced. Community engagement will be continuing and delivery activities will soon start to ramp up, so watch this space! Also recently announced was a call for business-led expressions of interest for the third wave of ISCF investment.

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