UK Research and Innovation : Innovation Scholars secondments


Wednesday 01 July 2020

£10 million funding to spark innovation and new careers


  • Launch of Innovation Scholars to help exchange talent and skills between organisations, such as businesses, universities or the NHS.
  • UK economy needs large increase in researchers working across business and academia.
  • Applications to the pilot must involve a biomedical firm

UKRI has launched a new programme that aims to spark innovation and help people move between different research careers.

The first £10 million pilot of the Innovation Scholars secondment scheme will help employers in the biomedical sector recruit secondees from any discipline in academia, the NHS or other sectors. The hosts will benefit from a talented person, while the individual will be able to develop new skills and exchange knowledge.

The UK government is committed to raising the R&D intensity of the UK economy to 2.4% of GDP. To do so, UK Research and Innovation estimates that the economy will need over 200,000 additional researchers, who will work in diverse sectors.

Although a pilot scheme is focussed on applications made in the biomedical sector, the scheme is likely to be opened up to applications involving other sectors in the future.

The scheme complements UK Research and Innovation support for researchers working within industry. Researchers placed in businesses have already helped protect the elderly from falls, develop new tests from strokes and created award-winning online training for medical professionals.

Life Sciences Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:

“The UK is home to one of the strongest, most vibrant health and life science industries globally, with discoveries and improvements in health diagnosis transforming people’s lives.

“Collaboration is vital to growing this sector and this new £10million scheme will support the exchanging of ideas, knowledge and skills between researchers and businesses while encouraging strong collaboration with them, the NHS and the Government.”

Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair of UKRI’s Medical Research Council, who also leads on talent and skills, said:

“We are delighted to be launching the Innovation Scholars scheme. This country hosts world-leading researchers in academia and businesses – but too often we are not sharing their complementary experience.”

“We hear that businesses want flexibility and rapid decision-making, and that is how the scheme will run.”

The Innovation Scholars Programme pilot will launch is now open with the first round of applications due by April. Further rounds will close in May and June. Applications are made via Innovate UK’s Innovation Funding Service.

Bobby Gaspar, professor of Paediatrics and Immunology at UCL and Chief Scientific Officer at Orchard Therapeutics said:
‘Having seen first-hand how academic and clinical research can be transitioned into the biomedical industry, I recognise the importance of training and experience in both sectors. This innovative scheme is an excellent opportunity for individuals at different levels of seniority to gain exposure to these different disciplines and the scheme will further boost the UK’s leading reputation in translational research.’

Professor Carole Longson, Chief Scientific Officer at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said:

“We want to make it easier for experts to learn from each other and move between academia and industry as they pursue promising scientific endeavours. I am thrilled to have worked with the MRC on this initiative, which I hope will facilitate the exchange of ideas and help forge life-long links. The secondees lucky enough to take part will be the pioneers of a new chapter in our shared mission to tackle the health challenges of our time and of the future for the benefit of patients.”

Sir Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D at Astrazeneca said:

“Developing a sustainable flow of well-trained scientific and medical talent is critical for the success of both the academic and private sectors. UKRI’s Innovation Scholars programme will help facilitate the development of individuals by giving them broad experience and an opportunity to work across academia and the biotech or pharmaceutical sector. This program will enhance our scientific and medical talent and help us better translate science into new medicines.”

Jill Richardson, Senior Director, Discovery Research MRL UK:

‘MSD recognises the value that the Scholars Programme brings to the life science industry and is proud to be a participating organisation. The cross-pollination of skills, ideas and resources that is possible when academia and industry supports one another in this way allows both parties to experience the value of their peer’s expertise. Participants continue to benefit by incorporating and taking forward the insights they have gained from the Programme into their future projects,” says Dr Jill Richardson, Senior Director, Discovery Research, MSD UK.

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