Driving bioscience innovation with transformative technology

Digital abstract circular data tunnel visualising speed and technology

The development of new technology is vital in advancing bioscience research and innovation.

New technologies accelerate the pace of discovery.

They create new and innovative opportunities for businesses and are critical in helping to identify solutions to major health, environmental and productivity challenges facing our society.

Role of technology development

The role technology development plays in the biosciences is more important than ever, touching on every aspect of research and rapidly increasing in scope and complexity.

The importance of technology is clearly recognised in both the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) strategic delivery plan and the wider UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) strategy.

However, the ways in which BBSRC supports technology development have not yet been robustly reviewed.

Comprehensive review

In 2021, BBSRC engaged the support of an independent expert group to initiate a review of technology development in the biosciences.

Membership of the expert group covered the key areas of technology development relevant to bioscience.

Evidence for the review was collected from a series of surveys, town hall meetings and workshops. BBSRC also conducted a thorough analysis of its current technology development investment portfolio.

The aim of the review was to identify gaps, opportunities and areas for future improvement in 7 key areas, including:

  • funding landscape
  • peer review
  • skills and training
  • research technology professionals (RTPs)
  • culture change
  • terminology
  • the support landscape of infrastructure

Key themes

Non-hypothesis driven research emerged as a key theme from the review.

There was a clear recognition that this type of research underpins our ability to make significant advances in the biosciences.

Coupled with non-hypothesis driven research was the critical role that RTPs play in driving bioscience innovation.

Research technology professionals

This is not the first time RTPs have emerged as a key success factor during a BBSRC review.

BBSRC’s review of data intensive bioscience also recognised RTPs for their essential role as part of ‘team science’.

This finding reinforces the importance of UKRI’s wider commitment to championing technical careers in research and innovation.

Navigating a complex landscape

Inventing new technologies and taking them from inception, through development and on to application can be challenging.

Navigating a range of funding mechanisms across BBSRC, UKRI and the wider funding environment can be complex, particularly for technology development applications that are often interdisciplinary.

BBSRC recognises the need to do more to help its community navigate these opportunities in the future.

It also sees a clear opportunity to raise awareness of the funding streams available to individuals across the wider research spectrum.

Looking to the future

Dr Ian Lewis, Head of Strategy, Technologies and Infrastructure at BBSRC, said:

This review wouldn’t have been possible without the valuable input of the bioscience community and we thank all who have taken part.

BBSRC’s review of technology development in the biosciences represents an important milestone in our journey.

Working alongside BBSRC’s Transformative Technologies Strategy Advisory Panel, we are already developing a series of actions that will enable us to take forward some of the recommendations emerging from the review.

BBSRC will continue to have an open dialogue with its community to ensure it realises the full potential of this critical portfolio.

Top image:  Credit: Andriy Onufriyenko, Moment via Getty Images

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