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Bioscience: Lost in Translation?

We have been working with the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) to understand the perception and profile of bioscience among influential stakeholders, focussing on the commercialisation of academic research as a key bioscience innovation pathway. In our independent, systemic investigation into bioscience innovation and commercialisation in the UK, we visualise bioscience innovation as an ecosystem. In this post, we use ‘bioscience innovation’ to refer to biotechnology and bioscience innovation and commercialisation.  

Our findings are presented in two reports based on separate but interrelated studies:

  • Understanding and articulating the nature of innovation and commercialisation in bioscience led by Dr Syahirah Abdul Rahman and Professor Tim Vorley:  We draw on the analogy of an iceberg to demonstrate the impact of social, cultural and economic forces on UK bioscience innovation, and the importance of their interdependence. We have adapted the entrepreneurial ecosystem literature that highlights framework and systemic factors affecting bioscience innovation. Our findings suggest that the bioscience  ecosystem is not consistently understood among different stakeholder groups, whether internal or external to bioscience. Furthermore, bioscience can be perceived negatively by the public. We suggest that failing to realise the public and commercial value of bioscience research carries obvious risks for the UK as a whole, such as falling behind in our understanding of academia’s bioscience potential and missing opportunities to understand the full industrial and societal value of bioscience. We recommend that those working in and with bioscience prioritise public understanding when designing and conducting research and innovation.
  • Mapping the biotechnology and bioscience industry in the UK led by Dr Francisco Trincado-Munoz, Dr Michiel van Metteren, Dr Tzamaret H.Rubin and Professor Tim Vorley: Drawing on knowledge space analysis, this study maps spatial and sectoral data on a sample of 10,809 start-ups in the UK to show that the UK bioscience innovation ecosystem is fractured, resulting in pools of resources, disparity in the availability of networks to bioscience, sub-sectors, and unequal funding prioritisation by the public and private sectors.  By considering the market and geographical positioning of companies applying bio-based products and processes in the UK, we show the outlines of current and nascent sectors and sub-sectors within bioscience and suggest that with the right support, including considering the UK regulatory environment, these clusters represent significant opportunities for creating sustainable social and economic value. Our investigation shows the diversity of sectors in which bioscience is now a cornerstone of innovation. We consider the sometimes conflicting views of this ‘iceberg’ by different stakeholders, such as Academia and the market.

These findings are presented in two reports, summarised in an overview that considers the different pathways and obstacles for innovation and the commercialisation of academic research in bioscience. Showing the factors that affect decisions around commercialisation in HEIs in the UK, we have looked at international models that are effective in supporting bioscience innovation and commercialisation.  The summary and the accompanying reports provide fascinating insights into the state of the UK bioscience innovation and commercialisation ecosystem.  We offer recommendations for tackling structural and systemic challenges in bioscience innovation, and warn that the power of bioscience is potentially diminished by its lack of visibility and mistranslation. Our conclusion is that the benefits of a healthier bioscience ecosystem in the UK are within reach if the whole stakeholder community engages positively.

If you are interested in knowing more about the reports, you can download them at the following links:
Bioscience:  Lost in Translation?
Understanding and Articulating the Nature of Innovation and Commercialisation in Bioscience
Mapping the Biotechnology and Bioscience Industry in the UK: A Knowledge Space Analysis