Last week, we completed our mission on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy to Korea with visits to Prof Hiroaki Kitano and colleagues at The Systems Biology Institute, to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and to Kyowa Hakko Kirin; the latter involved a very interesting and spotless £100M plant producing a variety of biologicals at the 10,000L scale. Most of my other activities last week were internal to BBSRC and I do not rehearse them. [...]
The week began with a ‘Research Showcase’ event in the Palace of Westminster, highlighting the contribution made by five HEIs to various grand challenges, including bioenergy, and attracting some 30 MPs and members of the Upper House.
Most other meetings were internal, but I did enjoy a very interesting visit to the National Centre for Earth Observation where Robert Gurney showed me some of the very nice online tools they are producing for mashing up environmental and other data. Some of these may well be applicable to other datasets (and I note our call for crowd sourcing applications). I also had a very useful discussion with Sir John Beddington on environmental monitoring, an area where NERC and ourselves share some common interests. [...]
As well as a variety of strategic meetings in Swindon, last week included an interesting meeting on sustainable energy in the British Library’s Talk Science series (albeit that neither Combined Heat and Power nor Bioenergy got a mention); probably the most detailed and pertinent contributions came from Prof Phil Taylor from Durham University, who stressed inter alia the gulf between the carbon cost (600g/kWh) on the present grid relative to the 2050 targets that approximate 50 g/kWh). Behavioural change, possibly linked to self- and community-driven generation, was likely to be an important contributor. According to Colin Snape (Nottingham University), Carbon Capture and Storage (implicitly physico-chemicaI) will add 30-60% to generating costs. Personally I prefer biological approaches! I also enjoyed a meeting with the Russell Group, launching two reports, one on the Social impacts of Research (pdf) and one on the importance and characteristics of world-class Universities (pdf), and addressed by BIS Secretary of State Dr Vince Cable and Lloyds Banking Group CEO António Horta-Osório.
We had a superb first meeting of our new Research Advisory Panel, bringing together our Heads of Strategy Panels and Committee Chairs to ensure that strategy and funding are joined up internally. The meeting also allowed a well-received outing of some of the new data visualisation tools we are developing to assist the understanding, summarisation and description of our portfolio. [...]
Although as mentioned the blog is on holiday, I did comment that I would be attending a high-level event in the middle of August. This was the Prime Minister’s Global Hunger event (hashtag #globalhunger), sponsored by DfID Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell and held at Number 10. This highly important event, that was also addressed by the double Olympic gold medal-winning athletes Haile Gebrselassie and Mo Farah, focussed on the recognition that, even with adequate quantities of food, many children suffer malnutrition (undernutrition) because of inadequate intakes of micronutrients, not least vitamin A, ‘iron’ and ‘zinc’, leading to lower-than-average rates of growth and development, referred to as ‘stunting’. The aim was to effect real progress in dealing with this by the time of the next Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. [...]