Innovate UK: BBSRC and partners launch six health innovation hubs

01 Dec 2022 | Network Updates | Update from Innovate UK
These updates are republished press releases and communications from members of the Science|Business Network

BBSRC and partners have launched 6 innovation hubs as part of a new Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club (OIRC).

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC), have created a new Diet and Health OIRC.

Representing an investment of almost £15 million, the OIRC will help address critical shared barriers to innovation across the food and drink sector.

Public health challenge

Poor diet has a huge impact on public health. As recently highlighted in the government food strategy, there remains a major challenge in producing and encouraging the uptake of healthier, more nutritious food products in the UK.

The 6 innovation hubs announced as part of the Diet and Health OIRC will bring together world-class leaders from academia, industry and wider stakeholders to address these challenges.

Driving collaboration

Funding for the OIRC forms part of BBSRC and Innovate UK’s recent commitment to invest in strategic innovation programmes to help UK businesses collaborate with the UK research base.

The 6 innovation hubs that make up the new Diet and Health OIRC will support and drive progress across one or more of the following strategic priority areas:

  • understanding the interplay between food components and human physiology
  • improving health and nutrition through biofortification
  • biological, social and psychological determinants of food choice and eating behaviour
  • development of functional foods and beverages
  • understanding how food and beverages deliver improved nutrition across the life-course

Each innovation hub will build cross-sector collaborative networks to improve the UK’s capacity and capability and deliver world-class innovation around diet and health.

An innovative approach

Dr Lee Beniston FRSB, Associate Director for Industry Partnerships and Collaboration at BBSRC, said: The OIRC is a new approach for BBSRC that provides an open innovation platform for businesses, researchers and wider government stakeholders to work together on a diverse range of research and innovation priorities. Our partnership with Innovate UK, Defra and MRC greatly enhances what the programme can achieve while also providing a strong connectivity to national strategy and policy. This will ultimately help to deliver wider benefits to an industry that is a key part of the UK economy."

Better food for all

Richard Hebdon, Director of Health and Life Sciences at Innovate UK, said: "Innovate UK’s investment in the BBSRC-led Diet and Health OIRC supports our investment in the £20 million Better Food for All programme.Together these programmes will provide funding to support strategic, collaborative research and development between businesses, researchers, policymakers and wider stakeholders in the important area of diet and health, helping to bridge the gap between research and translation. This is another fantastic investment that builds on Innovate UK’s strong strategic partnership with BBSRC to support collaboration between business and the UK research base."

Supporting ambitious research

Dr Laura Dickens, Associate Director for Industry Partnerships at MRC, said: "We are pleased to participate in this partnership supporting ambitious new research as part of our priorities to address important nutrition and health challenges and broaden our support for industry-academia partnerships. Establishing these innovation hubs will enable new research collaborations in this field to foster innovative approaches to solve an important public health issue that affects all of us. MRC support towards establishing the Brunstrom hub in particular will benefit underrepresented communities."

Closing the knowledge gap

Food Minister Mark Spencer said: "I am delighted that scientists and experts can now come together in these new innovation hubs to convene the latest science around obesity and healthy eating. Together they can work to close the knowledge gaps between current dietary trends and obesity, whilst improving our understanding of the relationship between food and health. Supporting this research is part of our commitment in the food strategy to boost healthier, more sustainable and accessible diets."

This article was first published on 29 November by UKRI.

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