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Strategic plan: Enabling theme 1 - Knowledge exchange, innovation and skills
Maximising the impact of our science and skilled people in boosting the UK economy, informing policy and improving quality of life
BBSRC is working to maximise the social and economic benefit of the research it funds. We will achieve this in partnership with other Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board by supporting the development of key skills in our scientists, increasing our understanding of users’ needs, and promoting knowledge exchange and translation. We will also drive culture change so that the bioscience community recognises and optimises the impacts of research, to benefit the economy and the public good.
Skills and capabilities
Highly skilled researchers are vital for a strong science base, and for attracting and supporting knowledge-intensive industries and investment in the UK.
We have particular responsibility for the skills base around our 3 key strategic research priorities, and will foster innovative public-private sector training partnerships to address skills and career vulnerabilities in these areas.
Modern bioscience often involves the co-ordination of large, multidisciplinary research teams and interactions with a variety of project partners and stakeholders. BBSRC will support high-quality PhD training to ensure new researchers develop the necessary breadth of skills, including leadership and management, the ability to communicate research outputs and ethical awareness. We will promote understanding of knowledge exchange through placements in industry or with other research users.
BBSRC will continue to encourage interdisciplinary research and training, recognising that many of the most exciting advances in biology will occur at interfaces with other disciplines. As bioscience becomes increasingly quantitative, there is also an urgent need to raise the mathematical and computational skills of biologists at all levels.
It is particularly important that early-career researchers develop a broad range of skills. We will drive culture change in the employment of postdoctoral researchers to support their career development and movement between sectors.
Strong links between research and teaching are crucial in attracting the best students into research careers. BBSRC will explore schemes to raise the profile of research in undergraduate degrees, and engage more at school level to ensure that students are equipped with the practical and mathematical skills required for higher education in science and related subjects.
Through RCUK, BBSRC contributed to the development of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, in partnership with universities, Funding Councils and other major UK research funders
BBSRC is also an active supporter of the Vitae programme to provide early career researchers with the transferable skills required for a career in academic research and in other areas of employment
Case study: Translation
Building on basic research undertaken during a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, Dr Andrew Almond (University of Manchester) developed a new computational technology to improve the efficiency of drug discovery by speeding up the screening of new compounds. A BBSRC/RSE Enterprise Fellowship and two BBSRC Follow-on Fund awards allowed Dr Almond and his spin-out company Conformetrix to bring this technology from the laboratory to the edge of commercial reality.
Knowledge exchange and translation
BBSRC has a responsibility to support successful translation of ideas, knowledge, skills and technology arising from research into practical applications that benefit the UK economy and society.
The time-course from basic research to application can be long (typically more than 10 years) and the routes to application are often diffuse and diverse. There is also evidence that ideas are sometimes not matured sufficiently within the research context to ensure successful translation. BBSRC, in partnership with other funders, will develop a better understanding of the various routes and barriers to translation in different sectors. We will seek to deliver innovative solutions, focusing not only on intellectual property but more broadly on intellectual assets. We will also increase support for people in translational roles, and develop enterprise skills in researchers.
Successful translation requires a 2-way flow of knowledge and expertise between academia and users of research. We will use existing and new mechanisms to enhance knowledge exchange, in particular to encourage movement of people.
BBSRC sustains a high quality research base that supports innovation in important UK business sectors including agriculture, food & drink, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, chemicals and biotechnology. Discovery and production activities in these industries depend on scientific advances in the academic community. BBSRC seeks to understand the most critical bioscience challenges facing industry and create opportunities for engagement between academia and industry. This ensures that the research and training we fund promote innovation and generate impact.
We will increase the range and depth of our interactions with business, building on successful partnership models such as our Research and Technology Clubs but also exploring new opportunities and mechanisms for joint working.
BBSRC is driving significant culture change in encouraging and recognising a broad range of impacts from bioscience research. We intend to build on this by developing innovative ways to capture, reward and celebrate impact. The benefits will include fostering public engagement and excitement about the social and economic value of research, and greater appreciation of the contribution made by bioscience.
We will develop incentives and rewards that are applicable across all types of research organisations, and which recognise achievements at individual and institutional levels. We will also engage with the development and implementation of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), to ensure that this framework drives a culture change in the recognition of the wider impacts arising from research.
Research and Technology Clubs are highly successful in delivering strategic research and skills needed by industry. The Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC) was established to address research challenges in the development of biopharmaceuticals:
“BRIC has been instrumental in stimulating activity into the UK bioprocessing community. A vibrant community is essential for providing cutting edge technologies and skilled people to UK based companies. New academics have been attracted to BRIC and are already sharing their ideas on how to solve genuine problems in bioprocessing.”
BRIC industry members
Some key priorities 2010-2015
In 2008 BBSRC launched the Innovator of the Year and the Excellence with Impact awards to encourage a culture change in the recognition of impacts arising from research. Professor Stephen Jackson was named the first Innovator of the Year for his work to turn fundamental research on DNA damage and repair into cancer therapies that are now saving the lives of breast and ovarian cancer sufferers.
- Strengthen the wider skills of scientists at all levels and explore opportunities to further develop these skills by spending time outside of academic research
- Expand training provision in mathematical, computational and systems biology for bioscience researchers
- Maintain strategically important and vulnerable areas of bioscience expertise, particularly around our three strategic priorities
- Underpin the needs of business by supporting Research and Technology Clubs, and exploring innovative models for working with business
- With the Technology Strategy Board and others, support translation of bioscience to commercial application, and develop a better understanding of the routes to application in key areas of BBSRC-funded research
- Ensure that ideas and technologies are incubated for sufficient time within the research base to enable effective translation
- Enhance opportunities for the exchange of knowledge, technology and people between the science base and user communities
- Recognise, reward and disseminate the impact of bioscience research and help to embed this culture change in the bioscience community
Corporate Policy and Strategy