University of Nottingham

Future Skills for Life Sciences Conference

Event review by Sam Cooper and Laura Kilpatrick, University of Nottingham

On 11th March 2019 we attended the ‘Future skills for the Life Sciences’ conference at the Royal Society. The first day was a workshop aimed at early career researchers invited from academia and industry to discuss the opportunities and concerns associated with a career in either. It was striking how similar the viewpoints of attendees were regardless of whether they had come from academia, small biotech and larger companies. This was particularly true when discussing concerns for the future, such as job security, the perception of science by the public and the potential effects of the unspoken ‘B’ word on the future of UK science. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as we also discussed our shared excitement for the future of UK science and the myriad of opportunities available to ECRs, how collaboration between academia and industry could play a role in shaping the innovation needed to answer some of the big scientific questions ahead of us.

The conference dinner was a great opportunity to meet a variety of other ECRs from all over the country and different scientific disciplines as well as the chance to interact with present members of the Royal Society and eminent figures in UK science. Many of the issues we raised in the workshop were discussed the next day at the main conference, for instance, re-training for switching between careers in academia and industry, entrepreneurship and business skills and the need for a Team Science approach, the highlight of which was a great talk by Jeanette Woolard.

Sir John Bell and Sir Patrick Vallance, two chief scientific advisors to the government, also spoke of the government’s strategy for maintaining and further developing the UKs status as a global leader in STEM based research. There was an interesting talk from Simon McQueen-Mason detailing his unusual journey from fisherman, with no formal qualifications, to Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of York! Additionally Johnny Ohlson, CEO of the biotech Touchlight and a self confessed ‘scientific novice’ and entrepreneur championed science as the ‘next new creative industry’. It was encouraging to hear someone from a non scientific background be so enthusiastic about the future of UK science and the entrepreneurial opportunities available to ECRs.

We thank the Royal Society for inviting us to be a part of such a prestigious event at such a reputable institution.

Artist interpretation - Future Skills for ECRs

Photo caption: An artist joined us for the workshop and shared her interpretation of the thoughts of early career researchers

Posted on Tuesday 19th March 2019

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