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Research innovators recognised for excellence at Fostering Innovation awards

Dr Ryan Donnelly wins Innovator of the Year title and £15,000 for hydrogel-forming microneedle arrays at award ceremony in central London.

  • The University of Edinburgh and The Roslin Institute (Edinburgh Research and Innovation Ltd.) scoop £50,000 Activating Impact award for translating bioscience research into real-world impacts
  • Commercial Innovator and Social Innovator, were won by Dr Anna Hine, Aston University, and the team of Prof Peter Mertens, Dr Simon Carpenter, Dr Simon Gubbins and Dr Carrie Batten, The Pirbright Institute, respectively
  • BBSRC launches Excellence with Impact competition: 31 of the UK's leading research organisations will work with BBSRC to progress bioscience discoveries into economic and social benefit

Dr Ryan Donnelly of Queen's University Belfast has been named BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2013, with The University of Edinburgh and The Roslin Institute (Edinburgh Research and Innovation Ltd.) winning the inaugural BBSRC Activating Impact competition.

The two competitions form part of BBSRC's Fostering Innovation initiative, promoting excellence amongst researchers, knowledge exchange practitioners, departments and institutions by recognising successful approaches to innovation and impact in the biosciences.

By working in partnership with scientists and research organisations the competitions promote long term strategies encouraging research to cross the gap from academia to economic and social benefits.

The winners and runners-up received their awards at the competition final in central London last night (March 20 2013) following assessment by an independent panel of expert judges.

Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "The UK is at the forefront of bioscience, thanks to the pioneering work of BBSRC and continued investment in our world-class research base. These awards recognise how we are fostering innovation and working closely with industry. This will ensure our cutting edge research brings benefits to the economy and society."

Now in its fifth year, Innovator of the Year recognises and rewards BBSRC-funded scientists who are turning the UK's excellent bioscience research into exciting outcomes positively affecting economic growth and quality of life for everyone.

Winner Dr Ryan Donnelly has developed microneedles, tiny needles which pierce the skin without pain or bleeding and are applied using a skin patch.

The microneedles can either dissolve, leaving tiny holes in the outer skin layer to allow proteins and peptides enter the body, or swell to become a jelly-like substance to allow continual delivery or monitoring of medicine in a patient without taking blood samples.

Dr Donnelly, who also won the Innovator of the Year Most Promising Innovator category, said: "I'm delighted and very surprised. I knew for a contest like this there was going to be very strong competition.

"To win something like this at such an early stage of my career, well it's the highlight of my career, it really is."

Dr Donnelly added that he would like to thank his research group, Queen's University and BBSRC for supporting his work.

He received a trophy and £15,000 to support research, training or other activities promoting economic or social impact. His department will also receive £15,000.

Activating Impact is a new competition developed by BBSRC to acknowledge and celebrate successful Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) teams or individuals at research organisations or BBSRC strategically funded institutes making an essential contribution to delivering real-world impact from excellent bioscience research.

The inaugural winner, from the 15 entrants and six finalists, was The University of Edinburgh and The Roslin Institute as Edinburgh Research and Innovation Ltd.

It will receive £50, 000 to contribute to the organisation's strategy for KEC.

Dr Wendy Nicholson, representing The University of Edinburgh and The Roslin Institute, said: "This competition was great and we're really pleased to have won. We're always looking for new ways to achieve the impact we're looking for."

The final also saw the launch of BBSRC's Excellence with Impact competition, which will recognise institutions that develop and successfully deliver a vision for maximising the impact of excellent bioscience research, alongside a relevant institution-wide culture change.

The competition, open to research organisations whose total value of BBSRC grants live on 1 April 2012 exceeded £5M, has awards totalling up to £1M, to be announced at the competition final in 2016. Thirty-one of the UK's top research organisations have entered the contest.

For more details and a list of entrants, visit .

Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills, BBSRC said: "Our Fostering Innovation competitions develop partnerships, increase participation, promote innovation and help researchers deliver important knowledge and benefits for people around the world.

"This is the age of bioscience with exciting techniques and technologies from the UK's world class research offering enormous potential and possibilities in tackling some of the great challenges we face.

"I would like to congratulate all the winners and runners-up and BBSRC looks forward to working with all the entrants in the Excellence with Impact competition."

As part of the Innovator of the Year competition two other category awards - Commercial Innovator and Social Innovator, were won by Dr Anna Hine, Aston University, and the team of Prof Peter Mertens, Dr Simon Carpenter, Dr Simon Gubbins and Dr Carrie Batten, The Pirbright Institute, respectively.

The runners-up of Activating Impact were The University of Manchester and The University of Cambridge.

The finalists for Innovator of the Year were:

Commercial Innovator

  • Hagan Bayley, University of Oxford – Engineered protein nanopores
  • Anna Hine, Aston University – Advancement of protein engineering for global biotechnology/pharma
  • Stefan Przyborski, University of Durham – Technology that enhances the value and relevance of cell-based assays for discovery and screening applications

Social Innovator

  • Ian Graham, University of York – High value chemicals from plants: molecular breeding of pharmaceutical crops
  • Peter Mertens, Simon Carpenter, Simon Gubbins and Carrie Batten, The Pirbright Institute – Identification, modelling and control of bluetongue outbreaks in the UK and northern Europe

Most Promising Innovator

  • Tim Dafforn and Matthew Hicks, University of Birmingham – A synthetic biology solution to pathogen detection
  • Ryan Donnelly, Queen's University Belfast – Hydrogel-forming microneedle arrays for enhanced drug delivery and patient monitoring

The finalists for Activating Impact were:

  • University of Aberdeen (University of Aberdeen Research and Innovation)
  • University of Cambridge (Cambridge Enterprise Ltd, University of Cambridge)
  • University of Edinburgh and The Roslin Institute (Edinburgh Research and Innovation Ltd.)
  • The University of Manchester (The University of Manchester Intellectual Property (UMIP), a division of UMI3 Ltd)
  • The University of Nottingham (University of Nottingham Technology Transfer Office)
  • University of Oxford (Research Services, University of Oxford)



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BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £500M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see:
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:

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