A team from The Pirbright Institute has scooped BBSRC’s Social Innovator of Year Award 2013.
The award was one of several presented yesterday evening at BBSRC’s Innovator of the Year Awards 2013; part of BBSRC’s Fostering Innovation initiative. Now in its fifth year, the annual event aims to promote excellence amongst researchers, knowledge exchange practitioners, departments and institutions by recognising successful approaches to innovation and impact in the biosciences.
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "The UK is at the forefront of bioscience, thanks to the pioneering work of BBSRC and continued investment in our world-class research base. These awards recognise how we are fostering innovation and working closely with industry. This will ensure this cutting edge research brings benefits to the economy and society.”
Social Innovator of the Year was a category award and went to Pirbright’s Prof Peter Mertens, Dr Simon Carpenter, Dr Simon Gubbins and Dr Carrie Batten for their work on the identification, modelling and control of bluetongue outbreaks in the UK and northern Europe. An independent industry led panel assessed their application and as category winners they received £10,000 along with their trophy.
From 2006 to 2009 bluetongue virus (BTV) caused major economic losses to farmers across northern Europe. The Bluetongue Team at The Pirbright Institute was responsible for development of innovative molecular biology techniques and novel assay systems that enabled rapid identification and tracking of the virus and led frontline diagnostic services for the EU. In addition, using novel mathematical modelling approaches they predicted both windborne incursions of Culicoides biting midges into the UK and the impact of vaccination strategies using epidemic models. This wide range of activities contributed substantially to the eradication of BTV in the UK in 2008, preventing major economic losses.
Prof Peter Mertens says: “We’re extremely honoured to receive this prestigious award on behalf of everyone that was involved in the diagnosis, modelling, control and the eradication of the BTV-8 bluetongue outbreak from northern Europe. This award is highly regarded within the scientific community. It recognises a real team effort at The Pirbright Institute and an important recent success, both for our research and for veterinary medicine as a whole. It also clearly demonstrates the important role that The Pirbright Institute plays in controlling incursions of viral diseases.”
The top prize of BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2013 went to Dr Ryan Donnelly of Queen's University Belfast for his development of microneedles, tiny needles which pierce the skin without pain or bleeding and are applied using a skin patch. Also scooping an award was The Roslin Institute (Edinburgh Research and Innovation Ltd.) who won the inaugural BBSRC Activating Impact competition; developed by BBSRC to acknowledge and celebrate successful Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC).
The awards ceremony also saw the launch of BBSRC’s Excellence with Impact competition, which will recognise institutions that develop and successfully deliver a vision for maximising the impact of excellent bioscience research, alongside a relevant institution-wide culture change.
The competition, which has been entered by The Pirbirght Institute, has awards totalling up to £1M, to be announced at the competition final in 2016.
Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills, BBSRC said: “Our Fostering Innovation competitions develop partnerships, increase participation, promote innovation and help researchers deliver important knowledge and benefits for people around the world.
“This is the age of bioscience with exciting techniques and technologies from the UK’s world class research offering enormous potential and possibilities in tackling some of the great challenges we face.
“I would like to congratulate all the winners and runners-up and BBSRC looks forward to working with all the entrants in the Excellence with Impact competition.”