Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

By Dave Stevens, Marrella Communications
Written for the QUEST project team

I wondered, whilst reading Interdisciplinary Research Journeys, whether there is a recipe for managing the tensions in an interdisciplinary research team of academics and practitioners?

It brought to mind some of the so-called ‘men-on-a-mission movies’ that Hollywood is always pumping out, where a ragtag band of ‘specialists’ is thrown together to complete some near impossible quest.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

New rules of engagement?

By Catherine Lyall

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, David Guston from Arizona State University spoke about ‘anticipatory governance’, describing it as building capacity now for what might happen in the future, as a way of understanding the political and operational strengths and weaknesses of emerging science and technology.  Others are talking of ‘tentative governance’(1), suggesting that governance modes need to be tentative in order to respond to the uncertainties and dynamics associated with such activities.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Vive la différence?

By Dave Stevens, Marrella Communications
Written for the QUEST project team

Nature recently reported (Oct 28) the EU was admitting failure in attempts to reach its (fairly modest) gender targets for the research workforce that it set itself back in 1999, citing lack of political support for the shortfall.

So I was particularly struck when glancing through the references cited in Interdisciplinary Research Journeys, the new book by Catherine Lyall, Ann Bruce, Joyce Tait and Laura Meagher, that the majority of authors listed were women.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The governance of science: The shadow of the genetically modified crops experience

By Joyce Tait

A shadow looms over many of the life sciences: the question of public acceptance of the science and technology – most evident in the context of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Opposition to GM crops by public-interest groups cannot be underestimated: it has prompted debate about the competence of researchers, banned research trials and seriously affected the advice given to governments.

In 2000, when the decision was taken not to rule against 27 Greenpeace activists who destroyed GM crops because of their belief it was the right thing to do, The Independent newspaper called it ‘[…] a defeat for scientific truth’ (Anon, 2000).

Monday, 1 November 2010

Politics, governance and life science innovation: How to get more bang for the bucks you’ve already spent

At the Conservative Party Conference on 5 Oct 2010 Professor Joyce Tait raised the following points about policy, governance and life science innovation. Joyce’s talk was part of Innogen’s contribution to the 2010 EGN Party Conference Fringe Programme.

Investment in biotechnology and life science research is expected to stimulate innovation and the UK's economic recovery. While this investment is needed, Innogen research shows that it is radical changes in governance and regulatory systems for life sciences that will be the key to maximising public benefit (economically and societally) from the money already spent on scientific research and from future investments.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

How to build an ideas factory

By Mariana Mazzucato
Published on guardian.co.uk at on Saturday 9 October 2010.

The Tories have told us that they want the UK to become a "factory of ideas", fuelling the economy, and indeed the world, with new products and services. Policy and headlines so far have focused on cuts as the central plank of the economic policy. Little attention has been given to the much needed growth plan that will deliver the promised innovation and prosperity.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Biofuels and the Globalization of Risk: The Biggest Change in North-South Relationships Since Colonialism?

By James Smith

We are facing a future shaped by uncertainty. ‘Perfect storms’ of food and energy insecurity, the threat of climate change, and growing interdependencies are generating global risks of irreconcilable complexity. This coupling of uncertainty and complexity creates environmental, economic and social risks; and so-called solutions risk exacerbating problems rather than alleviating them.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Cloning futures?

It has recently emerged that meat from cloned animals has entered the UK food chain without authorisation under the Novel Food Regulations. The safety of these products, the welfare of the cloned animals and how the general population perceives the risk of this technology pose challenges for policymakers. In the European Parliament, MEPs voted to ban cloning-derived products and this could become EU law in the autumn.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Agricultural Innovation and Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: Tracing Connections and Missing Links

Julius Mugwagwa and Simon Outram edited a Special Issue of the Journal of International Development (Vol 22, Issue 3), published in April 2010. Here, Julius describes some of the background to this issue:

With a special emphasis on agricultural biotechnologies, the special issue examines from different perspectives why advanced expertise and technological availability have seemingly had only a minor impact on the productivity of agriculture and hence food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Sustainable Businesses in the Regenerative Medicine Industry

By Joyce Tait

Successful and sustainable businesses in the Regenerative Medicine industry need to incorporate strategies to address key factors beyond individual business boundaries. These include legal, ethical and financial frameworks, distribution and logistics, and end users willingness to adopt and ability to pay. Business models need to be well adapted to the needs of this market and wil vary depending on whether the end product is a cellular therapy, a delivery system for cells, genes or small molecules or enabling tools and technologies for stimulating endogenous repair. The value systems for each of these types of products are likely to have unique features but will also need to be compliant with global regulatory and legal frameworks.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Does DNA = life?

Jane Calvert and Emma Frow reflect on the Venter Institute’s breakthrough

The publication of the paper ‘Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome’ by scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute has been accompanied by the expression of a whole spectrum of hopes and fears that we have come to associate with new biotechnologies. But we suggest that some of the more overlooked features of the paper may turn out to be the most interesting. Here we highlight four.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Synthetic biology & Scotland

Innogen’s Professor Joyce Tait participated in a debate about synthetic biology at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on 13th April 2010.

Joyce joined renowned chemist and synthetic biology expert Prof. Ben Davis (Oxford University) and Dr. Jim Haseloff, researcher and lecturer in synthetic biology (Cambridge University) and Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh for the event Designer Life: Scotland’s Next Industrial Revolution?, chaired by Quentin Cooper, BBC Science Presenter.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Can we get better at generating impacts from research? How can evaluation help?

By Dr Laura Meagher, Technology Development Group and Visiting Fellow, Innogen and
Dr Catherine Lyall, Innogen

Like all governments that invest in university research, the UK government hopes to see returns, not only in terms of academic excellence, but also in the form of economic benefits and other societal impacts including health, culture, education, justice and well-being1. This is particularly apparent as we await further details from the pilot exercise being conducted by HEFCE as part of the consultation on the Research Excellence Framework2 which proposes to assess, for the first time, demonstrable economic and social impacts deriving from academic research.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The truth shall not set you free?

By Julius Mugwagwa

Spending a week in Uganda and taking part in the agrobiotech, biosafety and seed systems conference second week of March brought me head-on with a number of persistent realities facing the development and deployment of modern agricultural biotechnology in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve trailed biotech debates in Sub-Saharan Africa for a decade now, and consider myself well-equipped to understand the twists and turns in the terrain. Ten years is a long time, but for me it has brought persistent feelings of paramnesia … feelings of certainty that what is being said has to a large extent been said before. However, if you ask me, that in itself is not the problem, but the underlying reasons for that stagnant debate are.

For a start, and as has long been confirmed, the dynamics behind this technology go beyond what the science can churn out. It’s to a much bigger extent about the technology-transcending politics of governing the technology to gain a balance among the contending interests of many stakeholders dotted around the value chain. Many players have entered the fray over the years to try and unblock the many grid-locks that lie in the path of successful introduction of biotech products in the region. For example, a number of NGOs and other non-state players specialising in ‘biotechnology communication’ have emerged in the region and taken over the role of educating the public on the pros and cons of modern biotechnology.

While it appears like scientists have taken a back seat to allow the specialised organisations to find and deliver suitable messages, the reality is that the majority of the people running these organisations are established scientists in their own right. They have fought the science communication battle from different fronts, starting as laboratory scientists occasionally invited to give talks at workshops or speaking their messages through others. Now they say they see the need to fight their own battles, with a little help from colleagues who specialise in communication.

Meanwhile, for the ordinary member of the public, it’s the lack of a firm middle ground which is worrying. When the debate started several years ago now, there were a number of organisations championing a neutral, balanced-information agenda, but gradually they have all moved either to the left or to the right, a trend which mirrors the funding opportunities available. The messages and the messengers seem to be following the money. Putting all this together, one cannot help sparing a moment to ponder over what one of the delegates at the Uganda conference said … that in this biotech debate the truth shall not set you free! What will? Food for thought!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Press coverage for Innogen's Economics Director, Prof Mariana Mazzucato

Find out more about Mariana's work in the following media outlets:

Academic expert in 'Inside Story', 22 minute TV programme on Toyota Recall and its impact. Presented by Mike Hanna. Produced by Al Jazeera English, first aired prime time on Al Jazeera English TV, 7 February 2010

Key role in the design and development of the film 'Rules of the Game', 30 minute TV film on innovation and the industry life-cycle, Featuring work and interviews by academic experts: Mariana Mazzucato, Paul David, and Clive Sinclair. Presented by PY Gerbeau. Produced by BBC, first aired prime time on BBC2, June 2002.

'Is R&D spending worth it?' (forthcoming Spring 2010) - contribution to the 'Excellence in Leadership', the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants business publication

'Economic Insight' column (Jan 2010) - opinion piece on 'to what extent throwing money at funding innovation helps keep a country ahead in the knowledge economy' in the Business XL publication

'Fixing the Broken Innovation Model' (Dec 2009) - opinion piece for Pharmaceutical Executive Europe

'Innovate to Stimulate' (Jan 2010) - article on Prof Mazzucato's inaugural address (25 March 2009): 'Do the best firms always win?' featured in Sesame magazine.

'Economic Recovery is a Slow and Painful Process' (Nov 2009) - Peter Bartram from the Financial Director quoting Professor Mazzucato on the economic growth rate in 2010.

'Winning Advantage Through Innovation' (Nov 2009) - Brett Matthews from the Business Today quoting Professor Mazzucato on why people are not investing and a discussion piece on the relationship between innovation and company growth.

'Study Probes Role of Finance in the Economy' (July 2009) - Market Research Industry Online highlights FINNOV, the OU grant awarded by the European Commission (http://www.finnov-fp7.eu/), led by Mariana Mazzucato

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Where are the users in the Global Health Research and Innovation System?

Dr. Rebecca Hanlin, Director of Health Innovation at the ESRC Innogen Centre

During many of the discussions held at Forum 2009 towards the end of last year in Havana, Cuba, a particular set of users (patients and civil society members) were frequently missing. One concept discussed at the meeting and in a commentary piece published at the time in The Lancet was that of a Global Health Research and Innovation System. This concept acknowledges the need to consider more systemically the wide range of actors, stimulus and challenges impacting the ability to innovate (new) health related products and services to address the health of the poorest in the world. However, the current conceptualisation of this system put forward ignores the valuable role users play in the innovation process.

This is despite an increasing recognition of the role of users within academic thinking around innovation more generally. There is a growing recognition that innovation is disruptive and often takes place as a result of those who, or to address groups who, are ‘below the radar’ thus recognizing the role of low income populations at the bottom of the pyramid. Much of this has been user driven innovation whereby innovation takes place in response to the needs of users while other innovation actually involves the user in the innovation process. Considering these forms of innovation provide one means to overcome the mismatches affecting innovation of health related products and services for those who need them most.

Further information:
[1] http://www.globalforumhealth.org/Forum-2009
[1] Matlin, S.A. and Samuels, G.M.R. (2009) “The Global Health Research and Innovation System (GHRIS)” The Lancet Vol. 374, pp.1662-3
[1] Prahalad, C.K. (2004) The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits Wharton School Publishing[1] Hanlin, R. and Sutz, J. (2009) Where are the flags of our fathers? Rethinking linkages between social policies and innovation policies Innogen Working Paper (forthcoming)