“To grow this vibrant bioeconomy, we need to engage and nurture a vibrant community of researchers”
Many countries are realising the potential of the bioeconomy to generate jobs, stimulate economic growth and lead to increased wellbeing across society as a whole. Within Europe alone the bioeconomy already represents a market worth over €2Tn and employs over 22M people.
The bioeconomy encompasses a wide range of activities that use bioscience based research and processes to produce a range of products and outputs such as food, fuel and biochemicals.
These are exciting times for bioscience. The research investment, innovation, skilled people and infrastructure supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) form the cornerstone of the remarkable progress the UK has seen in bioscience. This has enabled bioscience to have an essential place in delivering significant economic and social benefits in the coming decades.
But to grow this vibrant bioeconomy, we need to engage and nurture a vibrant community of researchers. The individuals BBSRC supports are a crucial element in maximising the potential of the UK’s bioeconomy.
While the UK has a world-class bioscience base, more needs to be done to ensure that the brightest minds are engaged in driving this science from lab to application. I believe that this will only be achieved when we have a more diverse range of individuals across science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) at all levels.
“While the UK has a world-class bioscience base, more needs to be done to ensure that the brightest minds are engaged in driving this science from lab to application”
Much remains to be done to ensure equality of opportunity at all levels. Figures from 20131 show that women are still vastly underrepresented in public and private research sectors. Only one third of European researchers are women and this proportion falls to less than one fifth in the business sector.
But diversity is not just about equality of genders, crucial though this is. Across all science, especially in bioscience, interdisciplinary working has become essential and diversity of approach and culture is critical to maximise the value of bringing the right expertise together to find the best solutions.
To overcome some of the barriers and increase diversity, BBSRC is supporting initiatives such as Athena SWAN accreditation and the Daphne Jackson Trust. BBSRC is also seeking ways to ensure that the percentage of our grant applicants more accurately represent the eligible pool of investigators.
Encouraging and enabling people from across a broad range of cultures, ethnicities, experiences and disabilities not only to consider STEM careers, but to aspire to be leaders in their field, is an absolute necessity if we are to ensure the economic and social potential of the bioeconomy are realised.
1. She Figures: Gender in Research and Innovation, 2013, European Commission
Jackie Hunter is Chief Executive of the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Food Economy Task Force Reports:
- Full Report: Leading Food 4.0: Growing Business-University Collaboration for the UK’s Food Economy
- Summary Report: Leading Food 4.0: Growing Business-University Collaboration for the UK’s Food Economy
- Work Stream 1 Report: Research into Attitudes and Perceptions of Careers in the Agriculture and Food Sector
- Work Stream 2 Report: Science and Translation of Innovation in the Food Economy
- Work Stream 3 Report: Landscape Collaboration for Sustainable Land Use