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Strategic Plan: Enabling theme 3 – partnerships

Working with our many stakeholders, including other funders and the public, nationally and internationally, to deliver our exciting vision for global impact from UK bioscience.

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Image: iStock/Thinkstock

We cannot achieve our vision for UK bioscience alone. Science is increasingly a connected global endeavour and this provides excellent opportunities for leveraging the world leading strength of UK bioscience. BBSRC will work with a wide range of partners – nationally and internationally – to co-fund research and training, enhance our understanding of users' and society's needs and deliver a full range of impacts. This will involve engagement with industry, policy makers and other users around the bioscience that affects them. We aim, through dialogue, to be open and engage with public views around our research and training.

Collaborative funding for research and training

BBSRC sits within a network of research funders, spanning charities, other Research Councils, the Technology Strategy Board, government departments, devolved administrations, regional authorities, international organisations and industry. Partnerships with these organisations improve the efficiency, co-ordination and leverage of research funding in areas of mutual interest. By working together, we are able to tackle large-scale challenges that it would be difficult or too costly for any single funder to do alone, as well as enabling a holistic approach that recognises the social, ethical, environmental and economic context to such challenges.

Joint working between the Research Councils, through RCUK, has brought many benefits, such as concerted action on training and skills, and investment in major multidisciplinary and international research programmes. Partnerships with other Research Councils, individually and as part of cross-Council and cross-government programmes, will continue to be an important part of our strategy.

We will review our interfaces with sister Research Councils and other funders to ensure optimal integration and continuity of funding between disciplines, particularly in areas where basic bioscience funded by BBSRC is taken up and used in other fields such as medicine and healthcare and the environmental services and industries.

Cross-Council research programmes, co-ordinated through RCUK, enable a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to major research challenges.

Enhancing impact

Bioscience is central in addressing many of the major challenges facing the world today. To ensure that the research and training we fund has maximum benefit to the UK economy and society, it is essential that BBSRC works closely with the research community, learned societies, industry, policy makers and the public.

Our funding underpins a variety of users and business sectors, each with its own research and skills needs and patterns of interaction with researchers in academia. We will work closely with these stakeholders to focus bioscience and skills into areas where we can make the biggest difference.

Building on our strong working relationships with the Technology Strategy Board and industry, we will drive a culture of open innovation to enhance impact through the free flow of knowledge and skills between private and public sector research.

We will develop closer relationships with our academic community, including partnerships with key HEIs and learned societies, which will help us to deliver impact in areas of strategic importance through shared strategies for research, training and infrastructure investment.

In 2010 BBSRC and EPSRC, with support from Sciencewise-ERC, published findings from their Synthetic Biology public dialogue. The dialogue has been influential in informing work in the field within the Research Councils and beyond.

BBSRC-funded research provides vital evidence for policy makers in many fields. We will continue to develop engagement and working practices to ensure that government departments, agencies and devolved administrations understand what bioscience can offer in providing evidence for the development of policy and regulation, nationally and internationally. Equally, greater engagement with policy colleagues will help BBSRC understand their policy needs.

Engaging with society

A growing number of advances in bioscience, including stem cells, genetic modification and synthetic biology, hold great promise to increase prosperity and improve lives. They also pose challenges that must be addressed by society as a whole.

BBSRC will continue to raise awareness of scientific developments and their implications, and to identify and respond to public attitudes, aspirations and concerns. We will work through RCUK and with others to ensure that routine consideration of societal issues enriches our policymaking and funding, and to equip and encourage scientists to engage constructively with wider society. We will develop our use of online and social media, including blogs, which complement our outreach through publications, workshops, consultations and exhibitions. We will continue to engage with young people, for example through RCUK and with others on schools-scientists interactions.

With advice from our Bioscience for Society Strategy Panel, and with appropriate partners, we will develop greater openness around our decision making, including drawing in diverse views around our strategic direction in emerging areas of science and the way in which we work. We will continue to encourage best practice across our portfolio, and the application of the 3Rs principle (replacement, refinement and reduction) in research that uses animals.

Building international links

Two intensive ‘Ideas Labs’, organised jointly by BBSRC and the US National Science Foundation, saw UK and US scientists working together to develop collaborative, multidisciplinary research programmes aimed at enhancing photosynthetic efficiency, and reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture. These programmes have the potential to generate a step-change in knowledge of biological processes, and transform approaches to crop production. Image: Rothamsted Research

Modern bioscience is truly international. We must work to maximise the UK's interests both in the EU and worldwide by fostering international relations and links with counterpart organisations overseas, including the UK Research Office (UKRO) in Brussels, RCUK offices in China, India and the USA, the Science and Innovation Network and UKTI. We will also continue to work within the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) to achieve closer co-ordination across DFID, the Research Councils and other stakeholders such as the Wellcome Trust.

BBSRC's International Strategy sets out four inter-related areas of activity:

  • Promoting the movement of people
  • Enabling international research and collaboration
  • Ensuring access to world-class infrastructure and information
  • Discharging our global responsibilities

International interaction helps sustain the vibrancy of UK research, by promoting the free flow of ideas and researchers. UK scientists make a major contribution to international projects that advance national research agendas, and underpin commercial and technological innovation worldwide.

BBSRC (together with MRC) pays the UK subscription to the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) and the European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC) to ensure opportunities for collaborative research funding and associated activities are available to the UK community.

UKRO continues to promote UK participation in EU programmes. BBSRC will play a full role in the realisation of the European Research Area, and influence the objectives, structure and content of EU programmes.

Key priorities

  • Work with RCUK and international partners to develop more flexible funding and review mechanisms to remove barriers to international collaboration
  • Enhance strategic funding and collaborative alliances, particularly with national agencies in the EU, US, Brazil, India and China
  • Explore opportunities to invest through European Union Horizon 2020 mechanisms and other international consortia which are aligned to UK interests
  • Seek closer links and collaboration between BBSRC, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and associated centres, and the BBSRC strategically-funded institutes
  • Work closely with the Technology Strategy Board, industrial partners and other users to align bioscience research and training with areas of user need
  • Strengthen engagement with key universities, institutes and learned societies, for co-delivery of mutual priorities
  • Continue to promote public dialogue on bioscience, particularly around emerging science areas and new developments
  • Work with the National Centre for the 3Rs, other funders and the research community to promote the replacement, refinement and reduction (3Rs) of animal use in research