Willetts to make funding announcements in industrial strategy speech

The results of a new method of distributing money for bioscience institutes based on their contribution to strategic programmes and national capacity have been announced by the government.

May 24, 2012

Details of the funding allocations for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s institutes over the next three years form part of a major speech today by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, setting out more details of the government’s emerging industrial strategy.

Funding for the council’s eight institutes will for the first time be allocated on the basis of their contribution to a series of five-year strategic programmes and national research capabilities.

Around £250 million of funding will be distributed over the first three years of the programmes – although all of it will come from the research council’s current budget.

The funding will also for the first time include a specific stream for supporting knowledge exchange, commercialisation and public engagement.

In a speech at the University of East Anglia, Mr Willetts was due to say that the investments would “drive growth, support highly skilled jobs and keep the UK at the very forefront of bioscience, with benefits ranging from healthcare to energy and global food security”.

The largest allocations, of more than £40 million each, will go to The John Innes Centre in Norwich and Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.

The recipients of the first four £1 million Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grants aimed at enabling scientists from industry to pursue research with clear commercial potential within academia have also been announced. Two of the industrialists will be working at the University of Exeter and one each at Cranfield University and University College London.

Another announcement involves two separate investments in synthetic biology; including a £6 million EPSRC grant to a consortium comprising Imperial College London, King’s College London, Newcastle University and the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh to develop a new platform technology for the development and commercialisation of new products.

Mr Willetts is also to commission an updated report from the Government Office for Science on future technologies to inform the evolving industrial strategy.

“All this adds up to government playing a creative and constructive role working with researchers, universities and business to promote innovation and achieve the greatest possible economic value,” he was due to say.

“With my combined responsibilities for universities and science all within [the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] we can harness the power of government to play a far more constructive role than I would have envisaged two years ago.”

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

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