Developing skills


Vulnerable capabilities

BBSRC identifies vulnerable and strategically important research skills through consultation activities and supports them through the development of bespoke funding programmes. This is vital to ensure that the UK’s national bioscience research capabilities are maintained.

Vulnerabilities may be due to a number of reasons, including:

  • a small or decreasing number of individuals with expertise in a particular area, with or without adequate succession planning
  • limited training opportunities for individuals
  • a lack of career paths to preserve skills
  • new and emerging areas of research
  • local changes in support for areas without due consideration of the wider impact.

We undertake on-going consultation with the bioscience community so that vulnerable research skills can be identified and understood. Our activities include:

  • a community-wide consultation, in collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Royal Society of Biology, to review vulnerable skills and capabilities in the biosciences and medical sciences (2014)
  • engagement with our training partners about their roles in supporting vulnerable skills – this resulted in an update to the vulnerable capabilities report in 2017 (see related links)
  • on-going discussions with our research communities, including understanding skills shortages as part of strategic reviews of research areas.

You can read more in the BBSRC and MRC review of vulnerable skills and capabilities report.

In response to the above consultations, we now support vulnerable research skills through the following programmes:

  • Strategic Training Awards for Research Skills (STARS) and associated GCRF-STARS
  • Doctoral Training Partnerships Flexible Supplement Fund
  • National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) Industrial Challenges Skills Schools.


If you would like to find out more you can email us.

Clare Bhunnoo

Telephone: 01793 413297

Last updated: 4 July 2022

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