Initiatives boost health and bioscience skills and industry

Scientist working at the laboratory using pipette

Innovation Scholarship initiatives totalling £10 million have gone to secondments and training programmes in health and bioscience.

The initiatives are funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and a cross-council initiative between:

  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

£5 million of the Innovation Scholars funding has helped employers in the biomedical sector recruit secondees. The 38 successful candidates covered research projects ranging from novel antibiotics to biological therapies for hearing loss.

The other £5 million has gone to eight new training programmes to address the increasing demand for managing and applying complex large-scale data in the health and bioscience sectors.

UKRI Director of Talent and Skills Rory Duncan said:

This new funding underlines UKRI’s commitment to investing in people and talent. Not only will it provide training opportunities for researchers looking to gain experience of, and share their ideas with a different sector, it will enable researchers at different starting levels and career stages to develop their skills and gain the confidence to manage and analyse their data.

This will increase UK capacity in data management and analysis within the health and bio sciences and help to address emerging areas of importance.

Individual and organisational benefits

The £5 million of funding for secondments is part of a pilot scheme designed to help employers in the biomedical sector recruit secondees from any discipline in:

  • academia
  • the NHS
  • other sectors.

It will allow the host organisation to benefit from a talented person while the successful individuals will be able to develop new skills and exchange knowledge.

Here’s what three of the successful candidates said about the secondments.

Pete Craggs

Pete Craggs, PhD, a scientific investigator at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) whose work focuses on infectious diseases:

UKRI Innovation Scholar secondment funding has provided me with a fantastic opportunity to focus on an innovative research project to identify new antibacterial drug targets. The impact of infectious diseases on our society is currently very evident, and antibiotic resistance is one of the great healthcare challenges facing humanity today.

The secondment enables me to develop my project within the world-class microbiology research environment at the Francis Crick Institute, whilst simultaneously applying my 20 years of drug discovery experience and benefiting from continued access to GSK’s research infrastructure. The approaches that I will develop will benefit the Francis Crick Institute, GSK and the wider research community and could help in the development of new antibiotics.

Personally, this scheme offers me the opportunity to develop new research and leadership skills and to impactfully contribute to a unique academia-industry collaboration.

Jan Wolber

Dr Jan Wolber, Digital Product Leader at GE Healthcare Pharmaceutical Diagnostics:

For GE Healthcare and the University of Sheffield, this secondment provided a mechanism to collaborate formally on some exciting healthcare projects that we want to bring from a lower-stage technology readiness level to formal product development. We hope that these future solutions will benefit patients across the NHS and beyond.

For me personally, it provided an opportunity to have dedicated time to innovate at the interface between industry and academia.

Sarah Larkin

Sarah Larkin, PhD, who is a Live Tissue Facility Manager and Researcher in the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford:

It is fantastic to be a UKRI Innovation Scholar hosted at Perspectum, a digital medical technology company in Oxford. After only two months I feel I have added valuable biofluid analysis skills to the already impressive array in the multidisciplinary innovation team.

Through immersion in the commercial environment at Perspectum I have embraced different ways of developing and delivering high-quality precision medicine products that help provide better care for patients with cancer. As a result, I am already bringing new ideas and approaches into my role in Oxford University’s Department of Oncology.

The insights and new mindsets I can now bring will strengthen and increase our relationships with the biotech sector.

Large-scale data training

The £5 million of data training programme funding will enable researchers at different starting levels and career stages to develop their skills and gain the confidence to manage and analyse their data.

This investment also responds to BBSRC’s review of data-intensive bioscience that recommended specific actions to increase UK capacity in mathematical and computational skills within the biosciences.

This will increase UK capacity in data management and analysis within the health and bio sciences and help to address emerging areas of importance.

The funded programmes will upskill over 1,500 trainees across academia, industry and healthcare in diverse research areas through a combination of workshops and e-learning programmes.

Course units include:

  • data management
  • analysis
  • modelling
  • coding
  • cloud computing.

Units will be relevant to their research or profession, with a focus on fostering FAIR data principles.

Further information

The programmes and institutions receiving funding for data training are:

  • health and bioscience IDEAS – imaging, data structures, genetics and analytical strategies
    Dr David Cash, University College London
  • data CAMPP – innovative training in data capture, analysis and management for plant phenotyping
    Dr Andrew French, University of Nottingham, and Professor Elizabeth Sklar, University of Lincoln
  • ELIXIR-UK: FAIR data stewardship training
    Dr Krzysztof Poterlowicz, University of Bradford
  • train the trainer in data science for pathogen genomics and surveillance
    Professor David Aanensen, University of Oxford
  • enabling the big data revolution through skills training
    Professor Rebecca Oakey, King’s College London
  • Learn to Discover (L2D): A training platform in data sciences and machine learning for biomedicine and health researchers
    Professor Geraint Thomas, University College London
  • data driven life science skills development – equipping society for the future
    Dr Alison Meynert, University of Edinburgh
  • Cloud-SPAN: Specialised analyses for environmental omics with cloud-based high performance computing
    Professor James Chong, University of York.

Top image:  Credit: poba/GettyImages

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