As previously, this is the season of internal evaluations of the activities and achievements of Swindon Office Directors during the last year (though since the governance changes I provide only advisory comments on Directors of our Institutes enjoying sustainable support), and I carried out a number of these.
Last week the Research Council Chief Executives, along with Iain Gray (Head of the Technology Strategy Board) and David Parker (CEO of the UK Space Agency) had one of our periodic meetings with Minister of Universities and Science David Willetts. Later in the week, and unrelated to the meeting, the Minister announced a £35M tranche of our funding for Industrial Biotechnology, together with £5M from the TSB, as well as delivering a speech and personally authoring a pamphlet on “8 Great British Technologies”. I was unable to attend these events, but did manage to attend part of the Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum’s other activities. As a major part of our strategy in Industrial Biotechnology, we have also here announced our call on Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy.
We also had a very useful meeting of our Research Advisory Strategic Panel, covering all of the activities of our Research Committees and Strategy Advisory Panels. Bringing these all together to exchange views and coordinate strategy and delivery appropriately is an extremely valuable activity. Regarding strategy, the call for inputs into the refresh of our strategic plan is here. [...]
Last week began with attendance at part of our facilitated ‘ideas lab’ meeting, seeking to develop highly innovative thinking in how to capture dinitrogen biologically and thereby to lower (and eventually eliminate) our unsustainable dependence on fossil-fuel-energy-driven production of nitrogen fertiliser, including by fixation into ammonia via the Haber-Bosch process. I shall look forward to seeing how the facilitators helped drive the flux of creative juices of the delegates.
We were all delighted, in part following the Chancellor’s recent speech at the Royal Society (about which I blogged), that the autumn statement contained an extra (i.e. genuinely new) £600M capital investment in the research base. This is, to say the least, a very substantial endorsement of the importance of the research base to the UK’s growth and jobs agenda, and such an endorsement is something that is very well worth recording. Good cases, based on evidence and well made, do get results. [...]
Among last week’s meetings was one to discuss how we might best take forward our implementation of the Athena Swan arrangements, and in particular the development of requirements for our fundees to have done so (by applying for and achieving the necessary charter awards), probably in the manner set down by the NIHR for bids to become Biomedical Research Centres.
I managed to attend the dinner discussion of the first meeting of our new Exploiting New Ways of Working Panel, and also had a first meeting since his appointment with Tim Benton, the new Global Food Security Champion. [...]
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Taiwanese National Science Council and BBSRC last November, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Taiwan last week, necessarily for a short but very intense, useful and enjoyable programme.
The first port of call was the College of Life Sciences of the National Taiwan University in Taipei where I was able to speak with a good number of the Faculty and also gave a talk about BBSRC’s funding models, as well as an academic seminar to a full (and evidently well-informed) house on the cellular uptake of pharmaceutical drugs. [...]