RCUK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Hub
The last few weeks have been busy with reports and experimental work, but also with proposals. In particular we are working on a full proposal for an RCUK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Hub. The topic is Industrial Biotechnology for Sustainable Development, and we were awarded an RCUK GCRF travel grant for a trip to meet with partners and stakeholders in India and work on developing the bid.
We managed to meet a wide range of organisations including large and small companies in the waste management, biotech and chemicals sectors, and also social enterprises, NGOs and government funded agencies. We can’t mention everyone, but particularly good sessions with companies Tata Chemicals, Praj Industries, Godavari Biorefineries, String Bio, Waste Ventures and Noval Ltd; NGOs Saahas and Toxic Link; the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council and the National Solid Waste Association of India who all gave excellent advice.
As well as Prof Banks and Dr Heaven from BORRG, the UK visitors included Dr Joseph Gallagher and Dr David Bryant from Aberystwyth University’s Biomass Conversion and Biorefining group, Prof Nigel Minton from the University of Nottingham’s Synthetic Biology Centre, Prof Patricia Thornley from the Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester, and Dr Pathik Pathak who directs Southampton’s Social Impact Lab. The host team included Prof Arvind Lali and Dr Annamama Odaneth from ICT Mumbai, Dr S Venkata Mohan from CSIR-IICT Hyderabad and Dr Shams Yazdani from ICGEB Delhi.
If anyone offers you the chance to organise a trip involving visits by 10 senior academics to 5 separate cities on different days, the best advice is – duck. But in fact the visit was amazingly effective, allowing us to meet as a team and also to gather information, views and ideas from other stakeholder that will significantly strengthen the proposal. One particularly good feature was the round table sessions run by Pathik Pathak and Patricia Thornley at the end of the week.
Special thanks to Uma Patil of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Science and Innovation Adviser at the British Deputy High Commission in Mumbai, who worked miracles to make it a really profitable trip.
Postgrads and postdocs are no doubt envious: actually this type of visit is more hard work than glamour and I don’t think anyone had time to see a single cultural artefact or historic site. On the other hand, these guys are all big names in their fields and were talking to some really expert groups on the subjects they love best – I guess you can’t ask for anything more enjoyable than that!