I was delighted that once again this year BBSRC supported the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) – the annual post New Year gathering of leaders from across the agriculture and food sector.
During the past week I have attended the meetings of two groups that make important contributions to BBSRC’s scientific strategies, our Research Advisory Panel and Appointments Board (more on this next week).
Membership of our Research Advisory Panel is drawn from across our advisory structures and includes the Chairs of our responsive mode, strategic Lola and fellowships committees, strategy advisory panels and members of Council. It helps to ensure BBSRC draws on a diversity of perspectives. We welcomed Jane Silverthorne, from the Bio Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF), as an observer at this meeting. We enjoy excellent relations with the NSF and have partnered with them for a range of funding calls including through a Lead Agency pilot agreement, Ideas Labs and ERA-Nets. […]
As part of my continuing involvement in promoting (and positioning us for) the Sustainable BioEconomy in Europe, one of my main activities last week was attendance at the European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology in Düsseldorf. This was a very encouraging meeting, showing how quickly Europe is moving towards a sustainable bioeconomy in the chemicals sector. Because of the nature of bio-based chemicals, one feature was a session on joint ventures between biological and agricultural or chemicals companies: Avantium and Coca Cola making plantbottle (a clear plastic bottle made from renewable sources), Reverdia, a JV from Roquette and DSM, BioAmber and Lanxess, and Global Bioenergies and Lanzatech were featured. There was much interest in bio-succinate, and a recognition that its increasing availability at scale meant that its markets (and those for its derivatives) needed to be developed now. There were many other excellent talks on developing processes, while Achim Marx gave a very interesting talk about the CLIB2021 cluster that is bringing together the many relevant players in Germany, Yvonne Armitage gave a succinct and helpful account of our own Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum, and Merlin Goldman of the Technology Strategy Board provided an excellent overview of the signal successes of the TSB’s high-value biomanufacturing programme. The CLIB2021 brochure contained the memorable line “In future, the rational development of production strains will in general be accompanied by systems biotechnology approaches.” Quite. There were also useful sessions on marine biotechnology, including a nice example by Kjartan Sandnes of a joint programme between Marine Bioproducts AS from Norway and the Centre for Process Innovation at Wilton, turning (potentially vast amounts of) fish waste into added value products, and one on processes featuring a nice presentation by Ian Fotheringham of the UK’s Ingenza. […]
Last week began with a reception and networking dinner at the Tate Modern, hosted by Unilever, whose CEO Paul Polman gave an excellent speech on their sustainability agenda. Sustainability is at the heart of biology, and will continue to be a core value for both BBSRC and the bioeconomy.
I then travelled to IBERS at Aberystwyth University for the latest in our series of meetings with the Directors, and their Deputy Directors for Operations, of the Institutes that enjoy strategic support from BBSRC. As usual, the first day involved some excellent science talks from the host Institution, while the second day was more about catching up on progress since the last meeting. While there, I also managed to pop in to see old colleagues at Aber Instruments. […]
The overriding theme of last week seemed to be the nexus of where arts and humanities meet the natural sciences (and equivalently where they fail to, as the balkanisation of research remains a major issue).
One pleasant networking event was the annual invitation from the Royal Society of Chemistry to a viewing of the Royal Academy summer exhibition. As usual this seemed to involve a mixture of wonderful drawings, paintings and sculpture with some frankly more meretricious offerings, but was nonetheless a pleasant occasion to meet a variety of folk for useful informal discussions. […]