Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Great minds think alike

Reporting from the 2011 Financial Times Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference, #ftpharma

By Joyce Tait and Jo Chataway

Several key speakers have been heard echoing major research findings from the Innogen centre at the Financial Times Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology conference this week, where David Cameron announced significant support for the life science industry sector.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Disciplining Interdisciplinarity

By Catherine Lyall

Professor Gabriele Bammer is doing something very exciting. In her forthcoming book ‘Disciplining Interdisciplinarity’ she sets out to build a new discipline – Integration and Implementation Sciences or I2S. 

Disciplines exist because, in the past at least, they made knowledge manageable. They also bestow considerable benefits in terms of peer recognition, access to resources, clear training pathways and professional kudos. But the changing dynamics of the natural, social and political world mean that researchers are increasingly called upon to generate innovative solutions to multi-dimensional, policy-related problems on a regional, national or global scale.The ability to deliver solutions to such challenges increasingly requires integration across disciplines. It also requires that academics reach out to the policy, private and third sectors.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

'Splicing mice'; regulating human and animal mixtures

By Gill Haddow, Ann Bruce, Jane Calvert, Shawn Harmon, Wendy Marsden

As the Scottish poet Rabbie Burns warned us, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry.) 

The fact is that progress is rarely predictable, hardly ever linear and most importantly, never able to be undone. However, there are certain cases in innovation where although the future is murky, one can usually find some precedent in the past from which to learn lessons.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Capturing – and sharing – creativity

By Catherine Lyall

Generously described by reviewers as ‘an essential guide for researchers and research managers in how to do interdisciplinary projects and programmes’ and as a book that ‘marks an important turning point in the literature’, we are delighted to see our new book Interdisciplinary Research Journeys: Practical Strategies for Capturing Creativity in print.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Oblivion of Biofuels

By James Smith

2011 is witnessing another crisis over rising food prices. In turn, concerns over food insecurity have intersected with ongoing anxiety over water and energy insecurity to create visions of perfect storms and future threats. All have meant the West is facing the very real possibility that it may no longer be able to import or buy its way out of tomorrow’s problems. The dawning realisation of the true global nature of these risks has ignited action: investment, innovation and policy. And biofuels have been presented as one of the key solutions.

Monday, 4 April 2011

What lessons learnt from herding cats?

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

“A new vision is required to promote organisational learning for interdisciplinarity within and across the Research Councils.”

So said Catherine Lyall, when she presented at a Royal Society workshop on Challenges in Policy Relevant Interdisciplinary Science.

To conclude her talk, she floated five ideas as to what RCUK might do to facilitate greater organisational learning around interdisciplinarity based on findings from a recently-concluded project funded by NERC and conducted with Innogen colleagues Ann Bruce, Wendy Marsden and Laura Meagher.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Tax and grow

by Mariana Mazzucato

Today’s Budget uses taxation policy to try to encourage corporate investment. The idea is that reducing corporation tax will increase investment and employment, benefiting us all.  The problem is that such tax cuts in the 1980s, both in the UK and the USA, did not increase investment but merely changed the composition of where the total tax bill came from and had a regressive effect on income distribution.

So what is wrong with focusing on taxes to increase investment? While the concept of, ‘animal spirits’ came back after the financial crisis to explain the ‘herd-behaviour’ that characterised financial markets, its main lesson did not. Keynes’ primary insight was that business investment, the most volatile element of spending in GDP, is not a function of taxes or interest rates but of ‘animal spirits’ - the gut instinct of business regarding the future growth prospects of a particular sector (eg. the future of biotech), a particular stock or of an entire economy (eg. emerging markets).

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Supply and demand

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

Management guru Peter Drucker once wrote, if you think training is expensive, try ignorance.

The UK is in danger of finding out the truth of this statement - with RCUK now focusing so heavily on interdisciplinary investments, and giving out multi-million pound grants in these areas, there is a need to give greater support to the people who will be expected to carry out this research. Interdisciplinary research requires a very different range of skills from the normal discipline-based academic model but most researchers receive no training in these skills.

The success of the recent masterclass ‘Leadership Training for Interdisciplinary Environmental Initiatives’ highlighted this gap in the training market.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

As Pfizer closes down its R&D site in Sandwich, what does this say about the future of Big Pharma?

By James Mittra

Pfizer’s recent announcement that it will close its major R&D site at Sandwich is a clear blow both to the regional economy and the broader UK research base, but the decision also illustrates the continuing tumult within Big Pharma. Companies continue to experiment with large scale merger and acquisition activity and “R&D rationalisations” as they try to deal with deeper challenges of blockbuster innovation; including low productivity; high regulatory hurdles; the financial markets’ demand for sustainable growth strategies and the ‘patent cliff’ that most multinationals are facing in the next couple of years.