Press release

Speeding innovation - science and engineering leaders pledge improved support for research translation

Leading science and engineering organisations today announce their ambition to help transform ideas and discoveries generated by researchers into practical solutions and applications to help improve the world around us.

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 recognised 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 [PDF 99KB].

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 organisations have to play - and that not every organisation 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 realising 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.

In line with the commitments Wellcome is working with UK universities to set up Pilot Awards to support translation and will consider follow-on awards for particularly promising translational projects. Wellcome is also helping with patent costs directly arising from Wellcome awards and in the future we 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 pledge being made today, to work together to take practical steps to improve translation in the UK, will play an important role. 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. It is also our role to facilitate the movement of people and ideas across sectors through our policy work, careers support programmes and careers events."

The Academy’s FORUM was established to recognise the role of industry in medical research and to catalyse 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. The Academy of Medical Sciences also provides career opportunities to encourage movement of people and ideas, including our ‘Exploring research careers in industry’ events, mentorship programmes and events focusing on academia-industry mobility.

Ian Shott CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Committee said: "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. We look forward to working with partners across the research and innovation system to implement the commitments and further strengthen the delivery of wealth and societal benefit from research excellence.”

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 recognise 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 recognised 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). The Society is already working towards many of the Transforming UK Translation commitments, from our Industry Fellowships, which assist the movement of researchers between academia and industry, to our Innovation and Business of Science course that provides training for academic scientists on how to commercialise their research. Transforming UK translation is an important component in the Society’s work as we grow our support and recognition for those involved in entrepreneurship and translation.