A new strategy for turbulent times

At the new Fellows admission day Academy President, Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, reflected on the year past and looked ahead to the future following the launch of the Academy’s new 5 year strategy.


The last year has been one of unprecedented turbulence in the political environment in which we operate. In the midst of this turbulence it is crucial that we provide clear and consistent messages to Government to ensure UK biomedical research continues to thrive and perform at an outstanding level.

The Academy responds to these political changes both reactively, though our submissions to Government consultations and requests for advice, and also proactively, through our regular meetings with leading decision makers when we can set and drive the agenda. The Academy also works collaboratively to respond to new challenges, particularly those presented by leaving the European Union.

The four national Academies are working together more efficiently than ever before. Brexit has encouraged us to put more energy and focus into international partnerships than we have done historically. The biomedical community is reminded that we are fundamentally a global community; our international links are essential.

Leaving the EU will have a significant impact on UK science and research. The Academy has called for positive action to ensure the UK remains a global leader in research and development. This action must focus on the four Ps that define our sector’s relationship with the EU – people, partnerships, pounds and permissions.

People are by far the most important area for positive action to take place. We must create a future where the UK continues to attract the world’s best talent to come and work here.

Cross-country collaborative partnerships are vital for science to thrive as a global enterprise. We need to find new ways to collaborate with European researchers and ensure that we continue to partner with countries outside the EU.

It is vital that we optimise our relationship with EU funding streams (pounds) as we move forward. We must have the correct regulations (permissions) in place, harmonised where possible to ensure that we can continue to collaborate with continental Europe in clinical trials. Brexit can provide the agility to position ourselves as the go-to place for early phase trials, using our unique record of intelligent regulation to trial new medicines and treatments.

Additional recent opportunities that the Academy has focused on include the Government’s commitment to raising the level of R&D spending and the announcement that the Government’s Industrial Strategy will have science and research at its heart including a separate bespoke deal for the life sciences sector. This shows a commitment to recognising the importance of balanced funding between basic, discovery science and translational research. Importantly the Strategy highlights the huge potential of the NHS, which we are not currently capitalizing on. We must use the NHS as an engine of innovation, embedding a culture of research, improving the adoption of new ideas and technologies and ensuring timely access to these.

Given the challenging political and economic and climate the Academy’s new strategic plan is more important than ever. Our five year strategy, sets out the Academy’s mission, vision and objectives as well as five key challenges we will address over the coming years to ensure the Academy plays a leading role in enabling biomedical research to thrive in the UK. It is a natural evolution of the excellent work that the Academy has been doing with added new initiatives. These include the development of a unique leadership programme, to train people to work across the academia, NHS and industry interface to generate a cohort of individuals equipped to maximise cross-sector working relationships.

All of the initiatives in the Academy’s 2017-2021 strategy seek to further develop our voice in being a modern, accessible Academy, encouraging diversity in all its forms and ensuring our Fellowship continues to represent the best of UK biomedical science. It is our Fellows who make the Academy what is it. The quality of this Fellowship gives us the credibility, authority and influence that we have and that is why it is such a privilege to lead it.

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