Let's transform the way research is translated into health benefits

Stephen Caddick, Wellcome’s Director of Innovation, says building a UK environment where research findings are translated into treatments and products is a challenge – but one we must meet.

A glass heart used for developing robotic surgery and imaging technology and techniques
A glass heart used for developing robotic surgery and imaging techniques at the Wellcome/EPSRC Centre of Excellence in Medical Engineering.
Credit: Peter O'Donovan

It's good to see the launch of Transforming UK translation [PDF 99KB], a set of commitments from the leading science and engineering organisations, including Wellcome, to transform UK research translation.

If we can get everyone to play their part in delivering these commitments it is possible for us to create a science, technology and innovation ecosystem that is the match of any in the world, and of enormous benefit to our researchers, our culture, our economy and our long-term future.

This is a grand challenge and – at this period of uncertainty – a timely one. To achieve it, we must maintain and build our commitment to research and discovery. But we must also create an environment that facilitates early adoption of new technologies to drive discovery science and solve the immense challenges facing the modern world.

In the past decade things have improved enormously in the UK, but we should in no doubt that there is still much to be done – and other nations and communities will not wait for us.

If we are to remain a global leader in science and technology, we must encourage and reward translation of discovery science and technology beyond the journal page and into tangible treatments, products and cures for disease.

Today’s commitments from the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, Academy of Medical Sciences and Wellcome are a great start. Next we need concerted action from universities, technology transfer offices, funders, entrepreneurs, industrialists and business leaders and government to identify practical measures to resolve the longstanding issues that we all recognise still remain.

The UK has made great progress in addressing some of its historic limitations in translation and innovation, but there are still barriers to turning the dreams and discoveries of science into tangible and practical benefits for society.  

Now is the time to remove these remaining barriers and build on the momentum created by the new commitments. Let's get it done.

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