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UK commercial expertise to be embedded in academic departments

The UK's biggest funder of research across life sciences has today announced plans to bring industrial expertise directly into research departments.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will open applications for new Industrial Impact Fellowships in January 2009. Initial funding of £2 million will be used to bring professionals from industry to work on BBSRC-funded projects, programmes, and in BBSRC centres, in order to support the translation of academic research into social and economic benefits for the UK.

Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said: "BBSRC's new fellowship scheme will enable a vital exchange of knowledge and expertise between academic and industrial sectors. Fellows of this scheme will get to share their experience, skills and contacts directly with researchers - which is essential to bring innovations from research to market, rapidly. Researchers, business and the UK economy stand to benefit as a result of this scheme"

The Industrial Impact Fellows will work within research departments and institutes sharing their experience, skills and contacts directly with research colleagues. They will work alongside academic colleagues funded on major BBSRC research projects, and bring their knowledge, experience and networks to bear on the process of bringing innovations from research to market.

Professor John Coggins, Vice Principal for the Faculties of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Clinical Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow and BBSRC council member said: "The potential value of the new BBSRC scheme is to enhance university knowledge transfer activity by having a person sitting within a research group and really immersing themselves in the work that is going on. We expect that an Industrial Impact Fellow will be in the ideal position to spot opportunities for translation of research into social and economic impact at a very early stage and provide the expertise needed to deliver effective translation. Researchers in universities and institutes are increasingly concerned to identify and realise the social and economic potential of their discoveries as soon as possible. However, the kinds of entrepreneurial skills and business knowledge required to do this are often not available to them."

This new scheme builds on the existing BBSRC Industry Interchange Programme, which supports the flow of researchers, in either direction, between the science base and industry. Where the Industry Interchange Programme supports short-term exchanges of researchers and reciprocal access to facilities, the Industrial Impact Fellowships are specifically aimed at industry research leaders who have management and business experience, for example, research programme managers; research and development directors; or research group leaders who engage with other parts of the knowledge production pipeline. There is a strong element of flexibility in the scheme such that individuals may choose to take a fellowship as a secondment or to work 50/50 with their industrial employer, for example. Also, the host departments are encouraged to consider the suitability of offering long term opportunities following the fellowship. This flexibility builds in the chance for Fellows to take new skills and collaborations back into the commercial sector.

Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills, BBSRC said: "As well as complementing the Industry Interchange Programme, this new opportunity will broaden BBSRC's portfolio of fellowships. In addition to the financial support offered, BBSRC Fellows are supported in other ways. For example, there are opportunities for Fellows to network with one another, attending the BBSRC Fellows' conferences and working with BBSRC centres and Institutes. We believe that the inclusion of people with a variety of skills and experience in commercialisation could lead to some really valuable collaborative work that extends far beyond the duration of all of our fellowships."

Press Office | alfa
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