Businesses urged to help identify strategic priorities for capital investment in UK science and research

Out-Law News | 30 Apr 2014 | 11:04 am | 1 min. read

The life sciences industry and universities are among the organisations that have been asked to help identify "strategic priorities for long-term science and research capital investment" by the UK government.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has launched a consultation seeking ideas from stakeholders on how best to deploy a forthcoming increase in capital investment into science and research (110-page / 483MB PDF) in the country. It said views submitted would help it lay out a new 'Science Capital Roadmap' this autumn.

The government said it wants to assess how to balance investments in individual research projects and with individual institutions with the "need for large-scale investments at national and international levels". It has asked for views on what should be the UK's priorities for "large scale capital investments in the national interest" and where collaboration can be achieved with international initiatives.

"The impressive strength and breadth of the UK research base means that we are presented with a huge range of potential investment opportunities," the consultation document stated. "Demand inevitably outstrips funding. Therefore, there is a constant need to prioritise, and this consultation seeks your views to inform our approach. These strategic judgements require us to look first at what international competitors are investing in, and identifying where it is in the UK national interest to collaborate in international infrastructure projects. This may involve significant contributions to projects around the world or hosting them in the UK."

The consultation highlights pharmaceuticals as one area in which the UK can be a world leader and outlined a number of indicative projects that could be initiated. One example would see a £1.1 billion investment into a research project that would aim to use 'big data' – the mix of large volumes of data with the latest advancements in analytics technology – to help gain a better understanding of how the genetic make up of humans and other living things influence and control how those people and things behave and evolve.

"Bridging this genotype to phenotype gap will greatly enhance our fundamental understanding of biological systems benefiting the development of: crops and livestock with improved traits, e.g. increased resistance to disease; micro-organisms capable of producing defined molecules, e.g. chemicals, bioactives, and biofuels; improving health throughout life, e.g. better understanding of the influence of diet on health and ageing; and advance stratification and experimental studies in man," the consultation said.

"Delivering these benefits will require investment in a very wide range of infrastructures including e-infrastructure, improved national research facilities and transformational technologies, which if done wisely will keep the UK in a world-leading position. This will require significant investment in distributed, but integrated infrastructure, building on previous excellence and investment," it said.