Russell Foster (left), Professor of Circadian Neuroscience and Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, has been awarded the Social Innovator prize, by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), for his work to revolutionise our understanding of the eye which has had impacts both in the clinic and further afield. His findings are having a major impact across society helping, for example, with the design of new lighting systems and the use of natural light in buildings. Russell and his team are now training a new generation of ophthalmologists to deliver improved health.
The BBSRC Innovator of the Year Award is a competition designed to recognise and reward scientists who are ensuring that the UK’s excellent bioscience research is translated into outcomes that positively affect economic growth and quality of life for everyone. The award, now in its fourth year, was established with a view to encouraging researchers to consider the potential of their research and take the necessary steps to maximise the social and economic impact of the excellent work they do.
Business Secretary Vince Cable handed out the awards and said: “I would like to congratulate the winners on their success. Their innovative ideas highlight the vital role that scientific knowledge plays in driving growth in important sectors like healthcare, food, and pharmaceuticals.
“The UK is a world leader in the biosciences and it is vital that we capitalise on this strength to deliver the maximum social and economic benefit. All of the finalists have gone to impressive lengths to ensure that the impacts of their research are felt well beyond the scientific community and this is truly worth celebrating.”
The nine finalists were selected by an independent judging panel to compete in each of the three categories and for the overall prize. Also speaking at the final was New Scientist Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Webb. Offering his congratulations, he said: “I don’t think I’ve come across a better collection of ideas in all my travels with the New Scientist over the past 20 years.”
Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills, said: “This is the age of bioscience, with techniques and technologies advancing at an exciting pace. These advances underpin so much that is so very important in our daily lives, such as food, health and fuel. The bioscience research community can make an enormous difference to mitigating the great challenges we face, enabling food security and life-long well-being, and helping to address climate change. Today’s innovations highlight the impact of this potential and the enormous possibilities from bioscience.”
Talking about the potential for innovation in bioscience, UK BioIndustry Association Chief Executive Glyn Edwards said: “The UK is a stunningly good place to do this. There has never been a better time for bioscience.”