A week of engagement with learned bodies in the worlds of chemistry and industrial biology. I’ve been involved on the Committee of the Agriculture Sector Group at the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) for several years, and last week we met to plan activities for the next 12 months. The Agriculture Sector Group overlaps with many other groups within the RSC and one of the events is a joint conference in November with the RSC Water Science Forum looking at some of the issues around water quality arising from the use of agrochemicals. We plan to cover the issue from a number of perspectives including regulators, practitioners and researchers, focusing primarily on the impact of crop protection products rather than fertilisers which have been well covered elsewhere. There is a nice link with one of the core strands of the Sustainable Futures project which I’ve discussed in earlier posts (see “Farms, Forks & In Between” and “Watershed Moment” below) and I’m looking forward to some shared learning. Unfortunately, I’ll not be able to attend the event as I’ll be at another conference which will be examining the impact of Brexit on the UK’s agri-food system. At a second RSC meeting this week I joined a Council Meeting of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy Division (ESED) within which the Agriculture Sector Group sits. I was there for an update on the RSC’s broader activities around sustainability, but the main reason was to represent the Agriculture Sector Group’s Committee and present more detail on the Group’s plans. As well as the conference described above, we’ll be working more with other scientific and technical organisations to maximise our reach and impact. The chemical sciences impact on many of the SDGs, and in working together we’ll be delivering on the spirit of SDG17. Agriculture specifically is directly relevant to a number of the Goals and they provide a useful lens for looking at risk and opportunity as described in an earlier post (see “Owned Goals” below).
In between the two chemistry meetings, I was in Edinburgh for a spot of biology at a strategy workshop involving members of the 3 Boards of the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) based at Strathclyde University. Industrial biotechnology (IB) is an enabling technology that uses biological substances, systems and processes to produce materials, chemicals and energy. One of a number of Innovation Centres funded by the Scottish Funding Council, IBioIC are creating new companies and enabling others to expand their portfolio or reduce cost and environmental impact. Based around 4 themes – membership, impact measurement, direct funding and indirect funding – the workshop brought together the Governing Board (which sets the strategic direction of the Centre), the Scientific Advisory Board and the Commercial Advisory Board (which I joined earlier this year) to help review and develop the next 5-year business plan for the Centre. The membership of the Boards comprises academics, industrialists (from SMEs to multinationals) and funding agencies which bring a wealth of experience to support the IBioIC executive in a variety of ways. The funding landscape is becoming ever more competitive at the same time as environmental challenges such as ocean plastic are becoming ever more pressing, so the workshop was well timed. The group came up with an impressive array of suggestions and challenges for the Centre which the executive team will work up into proposals for further discussion later in the year. It was a privilege to play a part in the day and I look forward to the next stage.