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20 years of skills and training

20 years of skills and training - 29 April 2014. iStock
Highlights from: 20 years of bioscience

BBSRC has supported world-leading bioscience for over two decades. In a series of articles during its 20th anniversary, we will be exploring a variety of ways that BBSRC helps to deliver impact from research. In this article we will look at skills and training.

Why is this area important?

BBSRC is committed to ensuring that UK bioscience continues to rank with the best in the world.

Excellent and highly skilled researchers are vital to achieving this mission, fuelling discoveries and helping to solve some of the world's major challenges. By investing in the research skills base, BBSRC not only support and develop researchers from PhD to high-level leadership, but help to secure the nation's future, driving inward investment and maintaining the UK's position as a global leader.

There is an increasing need for scientists to learn new skills, collaborate with experts from other disciplines and industry, and share knowledge with scientists in other parts of the world.

How has BBSRC contributed over the last 20 years?

Over the last 20 years, BBSRC has acknowledged the importance of skills and training, considering excellent research and excellent people to be cornerstones of its strategy.

Since its inception in 1994, BBSRC has provided research grants to over 8,200 individual bioscientists. In addition, BBSRC provides a range of opportunities for researchers at different stages of their careers, such as schemes to enable early career scientists establish their independence, to support for those wishing to return from a career break or looking to develop a business idea.

The most successful of these fellowships to date has been the David Phillips fellowships which have run continuously since 1996. David Phillips fellows continue to achieve impressive outcomes, conducting high quality, creative and innovative research as demonstrated by an evaluation of the scheme in 2011.

BBSRC fellowships and studentships partnering academic institutions with industry have more recently been developed, allowing researchers to gain skills by immersing themselves in a different environment, helping to address the growing need for transferable skills. At any one time, over 400 Industrial CASE studentships are supported by BBSRC, providing a first-rate research training experience supervised jointly by academic and industrial partners.

BBSRC has supported researchers to gain entrepreneurial skills via the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Biotech YES) that began in 1995. The competition for postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists raises awareness of the commercialisation of ideas from the biosciences. The scheme has now provided over 4,000 scientists with key entrepreneurial skills to help translate research into economic benefit for the UK.

To maximise the potential of BBSRC-funded science, media and public engagement training has been designed to equip scientists with the skills and confidence needed to take their science to the public. Over 700 researchers have now received media training, helping to ensure that the applications and implications of bioscience research hit the headlines.

What has changed and how has BBSRC influenced this?

BBSRC continues to develop and evolve its training programmes to ensure the next generation of bioscientists develop the skills that the UK needs.

The Bioscience Skills and Careers Strategy Panel was established to advise BBSRC on supporting the supply of trained people in the biosciences. In 2009 the panel made a series of recommendations to BBSRC on concerns over potential shortages in strategically important and vulnerable niche areas of research expertise. Recommendations made by the panel resulted in the development of several important BBSRC training programmes including Advanced Training Partnerships (ATPs) and Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs).

In 2011, DTPs were launched to replace the previous Quota Doctoral Training Grant scheme. The current DTP scheme which provides training in research areas relevant to BBSRC's strategic priority areas encompasses a three month professional internship. The internships are designed to widen students' experiences of the types of careers in which their training can have an impact. Placements vary as students are able to select an opportunity from across a variety of sectors and industries, enhancing skills in, amongst others, public engagement, project management and policy. The revised approach has helped to increase engagement between BBSRC and host institutions, fostering a greater sharing of good practice.

Milestones

  • 1995 - Launch of Biotech YES
    Competition developed to raise awareness of the commercialisation of bioscience ideas amongst postgraduate students and postdoctoral scientists.
  • 1996 - Launch of David Phillips fellowship scheme
    David Phillips Fellowships support outstanding scientists in the early stages of their research careers.
  • 2005 - BBSRC join the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Enterprise Fellowship programme
    BBSRC Enterprise Fellowships are designed to enable an individual to advance the commercialisation of existing research results or technological developments.
  • 2010 - Launch of Advanced Training Partnerships
    Advanced Training Partnerships (ATPs) offer postgraduate level training to employees working in UK agri-food industries.
  • 2012 - Launch of Doctoral Training Partnerships
    Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) provide PhD training in research areas relevant to BBSRC's remit and strategic priority areas, as well as professional development training opportunities.
  • 2012 - Launch of public engagement training
    Developing skills required to carry out public engagement, including how to organise and evaluate activities, and how to engage the public with social and ethical issues.
  • 2012 - Launch of the FLexible Interchange Programme (FLIP)
    The FLexible Interchange Programme supports the movement of people from one environment to another to exchange knowledge, technology and skills.
  • 2014 - Launch of Anniversary Future Leader Fellowships
    Support for researchers wishing to undertake independent research and gain leadership skills.
  • 2014 - Launch of Translational Fellowship scheme
    Support for early career researchers from academia or industry who wish to establish an independent career focused on the translation of fundamental bioscience research.

What next?

BBSRC will continue to drive and stimulate innovation through its policies designed to build a diverse bioscience research base in the UK. To ensure that BBSRC continues to offer suitable and targeted training towards the right career stages, it will continue to evaluate and develop its portfolio, and identify the skills needed to ensure the UK maintains its position as one of the world-leaders for bioscience.