Celia CaulcottHow do you bridge the gap between research and commercialisation? Make the most of the wide range of opportunities available, says Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Research is the driving force behind UK bioindustries, which is why BBSRC is committed to helping bridge the gap between basic science and its exploitation. BBSRC programmes provide skills, networks and time to enable a new idea to reach its greatest potential. We do this through a range of schemes that encourage enterprise and create an innovative environment. The breadth of these schemes allows researchers to explore the commercial potential of their work at every stage of development.

Building networks is important for innovation and BBSRC Research and Technology Clubs help to ensure the exchange of knowledge between the science base and industry, while also strengthening and developing the community. The Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC), for example, is a successful partnership between BBSRC, EPSRC and a consortium of leading companies to support innovative bioprocess-related research, including that needed for the manufacture of complex biopharmaceuticals.

Collaboration is also key. Our Industrial Partnership Awards (IPA) is an excellent example of collaborative working and forging important links. These are science-led, standard grants where an industrial partner contributes at least 10% of the cost of the project, indicating the strategic relevance of the project.  For example, researchers at the University of Sheffield and Syngenta have combined academic structural biology expertise with the company’s development of new chemicals, thanks to an IPA. The partnership advanced understanding of how molecular structure determines the activity of herbicides, and offered the industry the opportunity of novel targeted compounds capable of killing weeds that have become resistant to conventional herbicides.

As research topics become of greater relevance to companies, BBSRC uses the LINK scheme to fund pre-competitive academic/industry projects.  These can be in any area of BBSRC science, with industry and government funding the research 50:50, the industry contribution being in cash or in kind.  Such projects offer the opportunity for companies to work closely with the research base in areas that are not core to their business, but greatly add to it.

And of course, where an idea needs further development before commercialisation can occur, schemes like Follow-on Funding and Enterprise Fellowships come into play. Our Follow-on Funding enables researchers to undertake activities essential to preparing a robust business plan and securing further funding to progress commercially. This helps to take an idea through to the stage at which the route to commercialisation is clear and marketable. Enterprise Fellowships provide financial support to innovative researchers at the very early or pre-seed stage of turning research outputs into a commercial proposition.

The BIA’s UK Bioscience Forum in October is the perfect platform to highlight how we invest in collaborative research with industrial partners in the science base and industrial laboratories, enable access to specialist facilities and equipment, and allow academic and industrial researchers to exchange ideas and experience by moving between the two environments and cultures.

At the BIA’s UK Bioscience Forum, we hope to show you how these schemes are creating a culture for successful innovation. Our recent BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2012 winner, Professor George Lomonossoff, will also be joining us to help champion our research and talk about his award. His safe and accessible way to make proteins in plants has been readily adopted by both academic labs and commercial companies. We hope you will come and find out more.