Improved research translation to speed innovation into real-world applications

Improved research translation to speed innovation into real-world applications

Leading science and engineering organizations in the UK have announced their ambition to help transform ideas and discoveries generated by researchers into practical solutions and applications. The Academy of Medical Sciences, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society, and the Wellcome Trust, have outlined a series of commitments to ensure that translation is recognized and celebrated as an integral part of academic research.

They will work with universities and research institutes to find practical ways to make changes based on the Transforming UK Translation commitments. In a joint statement, they said, “The UK has a long history of excellence in research. To ensure our thriving knowledge economy results in the widest possible benefit to society we need to do more to continue to strengthen our translation system. Together we wish to increase the ease with which great ideas, discoveries and inventions can be transformed to generate real benefits for society and the economy.”

Transforming UK Translation covers a broad definition of translation and a range of outputs and activities, primarily taking place in universities and research institutes, including:

  • exchange of knowledge and ideas
  • creation and exploitation of intellectual property (IP)
  • academic-industrial collaborations
  • spin-out companies
  • development of products and processes
  • enabling technologies such as research tools and materials.

The commitments are based on an understanding of the different and complementary roles organizations have to play – and that not every organization will be able to address all of the actions outlined. Commitments include improving recognition for translation, encouraging and facilitating the movement of people between academia and industry, and investing across the translation system. Work has already started on a number of the actions outlined.

Stephen Caddick, Wellcome’s director of innovation said, “Wellcome’s mission is to improve human health by supporting science. By working together, on a set of shared principles and practical actions we will have much greater chance of realizing the potential of scientific inquiry and discovery.”

Wellcome has more than £3bn of grants in the UK science community and is committed to maximising the impact from that investment. A key part of Wellcome’s innovation strategy is to build more explicit links between science, technology and innovation in order to improve human health around the world. It is working with UK universities to set up pilot awards to support translation and will consider follow-on awards for particularly promising translational projects. It is also helping with patent costs directly arising from Wellcome awards and in the future will allow universities to apply for Wellcome-due revenue returns for additional translation activities.

Professor Robert Lechler PMedSci, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said, “Medical science has the potential to yield great benefits for society, but this can only happen if we can move discoveries from the lab to the clinic in a timely and effective manner. The Academy of Medical Sciences is committed to bringing the life sciences community together – across industry, academia, NHS and the regulatory, charity and wider healthcare sectors – to identify commonalities, challenges and opportunities to improve our ability to translate discoveries.”

The Academy’s FORUM was established to recognize the role of industry in medical research and to catalyze connections across industry, academia and the NHS. FORUM events provide an independent platform for dialogue allowing participants to take forward discussions on scientific opportunities, translational challenges and strategic choices in healthcare.

Ian Shott CBE FREng, chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Committee added, “Transforming ideas and knowledge into global infrastructure, products and services that in turn increase the wealth and health of our economy and society, is at the core of engineering. Much of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s work is already aligned with the commitments outlined in Transforming UK Translation. By supporting exceptional academics in UK universities to undertake use-inspired research that meets the needs of industrial partners, the Academy aims to strengthen links between industry and academia through its research chairs and senior research fellowships; while the industrial fellowships provide opportunities for early to mid-career academic researchers to gain first-hand experience of working in an industrial environment.”

The Academy also supports and accelerates the development of spin-out companies founded by outstanding entrepreneurial engineers through its enterprise fellowships. Enterprise fellows become members of the Academy’s Enterprise Hub, where they receive an intensive bespoke package of training and mentoring, and access to the hub’s network, including connections to customers, peers and investors.”

Dr Hermann Hauser KBE FREng FRS, science entrepreneur and co-chair of the Royal Society’s science, industry and translation Committee, said, “The Royal Society’s fundamental purpose is to recognize and support excellence in science, and that includes innovation. Science and innovation sit right at the heart of the UK government’s industrial strategy, which means ensuring that the translation system functions effectively has never been more important. The combined voices of the three academies and the Wellcome Trust are clear that translation should be recognized and rewarded as an integral part of research excellence.”

The Royal Society is a self-governing fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The society’s science, industry and translation programme was established in 2014 to bring together science and industry. It is led by Sir Simon Campbell CBE FMedSci FRS (formerly Senior Vice-President, Pfizer) and Dr Hermann Hauser KBE FREng FRS (co-founder, Amadeus Capital).

[Image: Science and innovation at Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK]

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