Monday, June 24, 2024

Instruct European Research Infrastructure Consortia (ERIC) inaugural event

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Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here for this special moment. It is good to see so many distinguished guests in London – I am delighted to be here to celebrate the transition of Instruct to an ERIC – a successful international partnership in structural biology hosted formally here in the UK.

As Andrew (Professor Andrew Harrison) and John (Professor Sir John Savill) said, modern scientific research nearly always involves the sharing of expertise to tackle the hardest questions. The bigger the science, the bigger the opportunity for collaboration.

By facilitating access to the best infrastructure, Instruct is going to create new chances for our best minds to work together.

Supporting research and innovation is a priority for this government and at the centre of our Industrial Strategy. The Prime Minister early this year in her Lancaster House Speech on the government’s approach to EU exit, confirmed the UK as the go to place for science and innovation. Our aim is to facilitate collaboration with our European and international partners on major science, research and technology initiatives.

I appreciate that the UK’s decision to leave the EU has caused uncertainty for the research community. Nobody in Europe benefits from the loss of research competitiveness that may occur if we let ourselves get distracted from maintaining research excellence through collaboration; it fundamentally underpins the way it is done today.

This is why the UK government acted quickly to underwrite competitively bid for EU funding. I will now aim to provide clarification on how this will work as I want to put any uncertainty to rest.

As a reminder, under this guarantee, the government has committed to underwrite the funding for all successful bids made by UK participants for Horizon 2020 projects that are submitted before EU exit. We know that research projects can run for some time. That’s why the underwrite covers projects that are ongoing at the point of EU exit, as well as funding that will be applied for before the UK’s departure from the EU and that is subsequently successful post-brexit. This is an important point that I hope is passed through the research community.

We also appreciate that not all Horizon 2020 projects are applied for and funded in the same way. The government’s underwrite will include those schemes not directly administered by the Commission but that award Horizon 2020 funding. It will also include schemes where the application has two stages as long as the first application is submitted before the UK leaves the EU.

Now of course, nothing is ever simple and there will of course be details to be worked through and this does all sit within the context of wider negotiations that are ongoing in Brussels at this very moment. We look forward to continuing our productive engagement with the Commission to find a mutually beneficial solution.

Earlier John demonstrated the power of discovery science in developing research methods to solve major problems.

We all know what structural biology can do: it can build on basic science and help discover innovative treatments for major infections like Zika and the Ebola virus.

We’ve seen that Cryo-Electron Microscopy can help biologists understand how Alzheimer’s affects the brain, something that could help millions of people in the future.

This has led to demand for investment across Europe, which is why I’m pleased to announce today that we’re investing over £11 million for Cryo-Electron Microscopy facilities in the Universities of Glasgow, Leicester and Oxford.

This will establish 2 new consortia across Scotland and the Midlands, as well as a new dangerous pathogens containment facility in Oxford.

I can also announce today that we are investing £22 million in ultra-high and very-high field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facilities in the UK which will help us understand how macromolecules play a role in health and disease.

These investments will allow us to create better drugs and targeted therapies to help the UK and Europe keep it at the forefront of structural biology.

This field of research will also benefit from a new multi-disciplinary science and technology research centre, named in honor of the pioneering British scientist – Rosalind Franklin.

With a central hub at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus and with £100 million government funding, the institute will initially focus its research on next-generation imaging technologies and drug discovery.

We want the UK to continue to be a go-to place for scientists, innovators and tech investors across the world. I hope today’s announcement will continue that legacy.

I expect many researchers to benefit from Instruct-ERIC support, in doing so look forward to seeing Instruct cited in many discoveries that could, quite literally, change the world in the years ahead. Thank you.

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