What’s been in the news?
UK ‘punches above its weight’ in research, says BEIS report
The UK comes first in international comparative studies measuring field-weighted research impact, according to a report by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. While the UK makes up only 0.9% of the global population, it accounts for 2.9% of R&D expenditure and 15.2% of the most highly-cited articles, it says. The UK was compared against seven other ‘research-intensive’ countries: Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US.
The report notes the UK’s research base as ‘well-rounded’ as it ‘demonstrates excellence’ in a variety of research areas. A ‘sustained upward trend in UK research productivity’ was attributed to an increase in collaboration with international partners. However, growth has slowed to 0.6% over 2010-2014 and overall R&D expenditure has fallen, although the latter is expected to change since last year’s Autumn Statement announcement on the science budget. An increasing threat to the UK’s position and to other research-intensive nations, are emerging countries such as China, who are ‘eroding’ our global shares in research excellence indicators.
Future UK scientific success will rely on international allies, say experts
The UK government must look to build long-lasting and deep international partnerships outside of the EU to succeed in our future aims for science and technology, say science policy experts, at a Westminster Higher Education Forum event. To combat the expected fallout, the UK is looking to build more international partnerships, said Prof Stuart Taberner, Director of International and Interdisciplinary Research at RCUK. The government is looking to build relationships with emerging powerhouses, such as India and China, that are similar to the agreement signed with the US last month.
Tom Thackray, Director for Innovation at CBI, noted that the government promise to increase R&D spending to 3% GDP was a sign that science and innovation was a priority for the UK, even after Brexit. The Newton Fund, which aims to form science and innovation partnerships with developing countries to help answer the research question that matter to them, will be a particularly effective tool in building these relationships, said Taberner. £735 million will be invested into this programme by 2021.
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Johnson: EMA relationship ‘critical’ for access to new medicines
Science Minister Jo Johnson, has said that a relationship with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – located in London – is a priority of the government in negotiations with the EU. An alignment with the EMA ‘is critical for both our pharmaceutical and life sciences industries, but also for patients who want to have prompt access to innovative treatments,’ he said. Johnson made the statement this week when providing evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, chaired by Norman Lamb. The session was held to review the work of the minister, and for the committee to receive updates on the progress of the Industrial Strategy and establishment of UKRI.
Lamb raised concerns that without an association to EMA the UK are at risk of slower access to new medicines. In response, Johnson said: ‘We can’t prejudge the negotiations that are underway in Brussels but it is a core objective of the government to ensure that we continue to have a relationship with the EU regulatory regime that delivers on those outcomes.’
Upcoming events and networking opportunities
- Next steps for developing the 2021 Research Excellence Framework– Tuesday 14 November 2017, London
- Next steps for low carbon road transport: innovation, EVs and transition strategies– Tuesday 28 November 2017, London
- Healthy future: genomics and beyond – Tuesday 28 November 2017, Cambridge
- Priorities for developing the UK’s Industrial Strategy – Tuesday 28 November 2017, London
- Expanding the UK's Green Economy: investor confidence, low-carbon infrastructure and the Clean Growth Plan– Tuesday 5 December 2017, London
- The future of personalised and genomic medicine – Thursday 14 December 2017, London
Calls for evidence
- Brexit – medicines, medical devices and substances of human origin: Health Committee
Deadline: 26 October 2017
Written submissions are now being accepted by the Health Committee, in response to an inquiry on regulatory arrangements on medicines, medical devices, medical products, and substances of human origin after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Evidence for new opportunities and risks are encouraged to ensure a smooth transition between changes in regulation.
- Science budget and Industrial Strategy: Science and Technology Committee
Deadline: 30 October 2017
The Science and Technology Committee are now accepting written submissions on the rationale and coherence of the current science budget – which includes the Industrial Strategy Fund – and what further steps the government needs to take to strengthen the aims of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper, published in January 2017.
- Electric vehicles: developing the market and infrastructure: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee
Deadline: 3 November 2017
Experts are called to provide oral and/or written evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Topics of particular interest include how electric vehicles can help meet the government’s target to end all sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2040 and the infrastructure requirements for alternative vehicles.
- Brexit – energy security: EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee
The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee has announced a short inquiry to evaluate the impact of Brexit on the energy industry in the UK, and what issues should be prioritised by the UK government when pursuing a new energy relationship with the EU.
Competition closes: Wednesday 1 November 2017 12:00pm
Proposals submitted for a UK medicines manufacturing and innovation centre will focus on how small-molecule-pharmaceutical and fine-chemical manufacturing processes, to benefit UK productivity. Innovate UK will invest up to £13 million in the centre, with the project lasting up to 3 years; starting by 1 February 2018.
Competition closes: Wednesday 1 November 2017 12.00pm
£30 million is to be invested to create three new advanced therapies treatment centres in the UK. Successful centres will ultimately form a network for research and innovation, and will be coordinated through the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. Proposals should be on a national level to increase patient access to advanced therapies, and should establish best practice for manufacturing and sale of these products.
Competition closes: Wednesday 1 November 2017 12:00pm
Innovate UK is set to invest up to £15 million in the medicines manufacturing sector through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Projects need to improve the productivity, competitiveness and growth of at least one small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) in the UK involved in the project. The competition is split into two parts – feasibility projects and industrial research and development projects.
Competition closes: Wednesday 15 November 2017 12:00pm
The Department for Transport, along with Innovate UK, is offering up to £7.9 million to support growth in research and development in national and international rail markets. Projects should address the areas of minimal disruption to train services and/or intelligent trains and should last between six months to two years. Proposals must include at least two organisations, one of them an SME.
Competition closes: Wednesday 13 December 2017 12:00pm
As part of the government’s aim for zero emissions from all vehicles of UK roads, Innovate UK and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles are offering up to £18 million to fund projects that will enable industry-led research into zero-emission vehicle technology, particularly for medium and heavy goods vehicles.
Competition closes: Wednesday 6 December 2017 12:00pm
To tackle challenges in health and life sciences, Innovate UK is investing £15 million into improving quality of products and sustainability. Projects must involve innovation in the following priority areas: increasing agricultural productivity, improving food quality and sustainability, cell and gene therapies, precision medicine, medicines discovery, preclinical technologies or advanced biosciences.