It is an absolute pleasure to sit down to write this, my first blog since being appointed as Executive Chair of BBSRC within UK Research and Innovation.

We are now just over one month into UK Research and Innovation and in conversations I have with members of the community I know there is an appetite to understand what this means for them. There are plans to publish UK Research and Innovation’s strategy soon, and this will be important for setting out the organisation’s approach, but here I would like to take the opportunity to set out my vision for BBSRC.

As a discipline-facing council within UK Research and Innovation, BBSRC has a key role in providing leadership and support for UK bioscience research and enabling researchers to build on their discoveries through innovation. My vision reflects this leadership of the discipline, I want BBSRC to be an intelligent investor in research, supporting and enhancing the excellence of UK bioscience and maximising the generation of new knowledge and opportunities to deliver impact.

I see three key elements that will be fundamental to delivering my vision. First is for BBSRC to be strategic and forward looking. We will continue to build on strong foundations, developing the talent and infrastructure that are key for a vibrant research ecosystem. We will support discovery research and transformative technologies to advance the frontiers of knowledge. And we will ensure that bioscience contributes to addressing the strategic challenges of the 21st century – sustainability of resources, of food and agriculture and of health. Relating to this element, I am really delighted that we have just re-launched our strategic Longer Larger (sLoLa) investment programme, demonstrating BBSRC’s commitment to supporting discovery research which focuses on frontier bioscience.

Second is building strong strategic partnerships. We already partner in many different geometries, both at a national and international level. The creation of UK Research and Innovation provides the opportunity to do this more effectively, especially at a cross-council level, a topic frequently raised with me by members of the community. To achieve this it will be important that BBSRC is an open, collaborative and collegiate organisation – I hope that we already are and under my leadership we will continue to build on this.

Of course to deliver, we will need to continue to invest in people, the third element underpinning my vision. Continuing to support research careers through studentships and fellowships is fundamental and the recently announced UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships offer an excellent new opportunity across all disciplines. It is also important that we nurture the talent within BBSRC and UK Research and Innovation – the people who provide the vital linkage between the bioscience community and the organisation. I originally joined BBSRC on secondment from my academic appointment at the University of Bath, bringing direct experience of the research environment with me. We are now exploring ways in which we can develop closer links with the research base to promote more of this type of knowledge exchange – so watch this space.

When investing in the talent to deliver we must build on the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I). On this point, I was delighted to speak at a celebratory dinner recently that recognised the achievement of The Roslin Institute in being the only academic department in Scotland to have achieved a Gold Athena Swan award. It was a double pleasure as only 10 Gold awards have been made in the sector – with the John Innes Centre also holding a Gold award. With 20% of Gold awards held by BBSRC-strategically-funded institutes I feel very proud of the efforts being made and the achievements. UK Research and Innovation has identified ED&I as a high-level objective and will very shortly be launching a call for applications to join an external advisory board to advise on UK Research and Innovation’s approach in this area – I encourage those interested to apply.

Finally, I offer my personal reflection that the changes heralded by the creation of UK Research and Innovation offer bioscience an even greater opportunity to develop new knowledge that can make our world a more sustainable, secure and prosperous place – and that is an exciting prospect which I’m looking forward to help make happen.

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