Brexit could be an opportunity for UK science
In an article for Open Access Government, London Institute director Thomas Fink argues that Brexit could be a blessing in disguise for UK science. The EU’s funding system is biased toward applied science, at a cost to the basic science that has been Britain’s pride for four centuries — and which, time and again, turns out to lead to the most far-reaching breakthroughs. The prime minister’s advisor Dominic Cummings has said that he believes in "high-risk, high-payoff visions”. If he puts this principle into practice, UK science will be the better for it.
Science and business dinner
Can innovation have a strategy? Is climate change a collective action problem? These were among the foci of discussion at the Institute’s annual Science and Business Dinner, which was hosted by Princeton’s Simon Levin, BCG’s Martin Reeves and the Institute’s Thomas Fink. Guests included HSBC’s Daniel Klier, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp of the LEGO Brand Group, the former UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John Beddington, and Valerie Isham, Emeritus Professor of Probability and Statistics at UCL. The excellent dinner was seasoned by five short speeches.
London Institute in Times Higher Education
In an opinion piece in the Times Higher Education magazine, London Institute director Thomas Fink argues “We need to challenge the university monopoly on research”. The article amounts to a mission statement: to provide an alternative to the dominant “Humboldtian” model in which research and education are joined at the hip. Instead, the London Institute is one of a new breed of independent research centres, where scientists can devote themselves full-time to discovery. For curiosity-driven research, universities should not be the only game in town.
London Institute becomes Independent Research Organization
The London Institute has been recognized as an Independent Research Organisation by UK Research and Innovation, joining a small number of independent centres which, alongside the universities, are responsible for conducting the nation’s research. The Institute is the UK’s first private research centre in the physical sciences to be allowed to compete for £7 billion of annual funding from the seven Research Councils. This is a milestone for the Institute and an opportunity to expand its faculty and strengthen collaborations with universities and industry.
Coverage in Business Life
Business Life—the inflight magazine for passengers flying on British Airways—ran a three-page profile of the London Institute and its founder in its April issue. The piece highlighted the Institute’s new approach to organizing scientific research in the UK, and charted the distance travelled from the Institute's beginnings in 2011 to the recent milestone of becoming an Independent Research Organization. It also zoomed in on the Institute’s recent work on the science of innovation and research carried out by our start-up incubator, LIMS Ventures.
We’re making space for postdocs
Thanks to a generous donation from the Rose Foundation, we’re converting part of our basement into work space for postdocs. We need it. Since becoming an Independent Research Organization, we’ve entered a new phase of expansion. We’re grateful to the Rose Foundation, which is dedicated to helping London-based charities with building projects. They previously funded the installation of our basement kitchen. Because the London Institute does not receive student fees or subsidies, it relies entirely on research grants and donations, like this one.
Sending out a message
If a scientist shouts, “Eureka!” in a forest, and no one hears him, has he made a discovery? At the London Institute, we believe a paper is only one step along the path from idea to impact. To ensure that other scientists, businesses and governments can build on our discoveries and put them to use, the Institute has started working with April6Proof, a science and technology PR firm. April6Proof, whose other clients include CERN, the NPL and the Royal Academy of Engineering, will also help the Institute communicate its activities to a global audience.
Christmas party goes crackers
Tatratea: a Slovakian tea-based liqueur. Ghorme sabzi: an Iranian kidney bean stew. Spaghetti alla puttanesca: Italian pasta with anchovies, olives and capers. These are three examples of delicacies, each particular to their country of origin, contributed by attendees at the London Institute’s Christmas Party on 6 December. Thomas Fink kept things real by grilling some Texan cheeseburgers in the fireplace. After the feasting, a Meccano cracker construction competition ensued, which was won by Ton Coolen. Festivities continued into the small hours.
On the first day of Christmas
On the first day of Christmas, the London Institute gave to you… its very own mathematical interpretation of The Twelve Days of Christmas. The twelve gifts shown in the card included one side to the Möbius strip, five exceptional Lie groups, eight basis vectors of the octonians and 11 coordinate systems in which the Helmholtz equation is separable. The card was drawn parametrically and ray-traced by Robert Farr. It was sent to everyone who has supported us over the past year. We’re enormously grateful for all your help and encouragement. Happy Christmas.
Sir John Beddington joins the board of trustees
Sir John Beddington, HonFREng, CMG, FRS, FRSE, has joined the London Institute’s Board of Trustees. He brings great experience in strategy, science policy and science funding. Sir John is Senior Fellow at the Oxford Martin School and Professor of Natural Resource Management at Oxford. He is a non-executive Director of the Met Office and chairs the Systemic Risk Institute at LSE. Sir John is President of the London Zoo, a Trustee of the Natural History Museum and was Government Chief Scientific Adviser. He received the Order of the Rising Sun from Japan.
The launch of Kickscience
The London Institute has launched Kickscience, a programme to fund research projects at the Institute with private, focused donations. As government support for basic science decreases, the philanthropy of the new economy is shaping the future of discovery. Individuals and organizations are playing an important role in determining the most important lines of research. Donors to Kickscience can decide which of our research projects gets advanced by supporting it specifically. Any funds that are given for a project are spent entirely on that project.
Sir Roy Anderson joins the board of trustees
Sir Roy Anderson, FRS FMedSci, has joined the London Institute’s Board of Trustees. He brings tremendous experience in governance, defence and scientific ventures. Sir Roy is Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College and formerly Rector of Imperial College and Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Defence. Sir Roy was a Governor of the Wellcome Trust and is a Trustee of the Natural History Museum and a non-executive director of GlaxoSmithKline. His research is at the interface between medicine, biology, mathematics and computation.
Tracking our discoveries with Digital Science
The London Institute and Digital Science have formed an agreement that will see research insights platform Dimensions rolled out across the Institute. Dimensions helps the London Institute track the citations, press stories and social media attention of its published papers in real time. As well as measuring the reach of the Institute’s own research, Dimensions lets the Institute and LIMS Ventures explore 95 million publication records, $1.3 trillion of funded grants, 400,000 clinical trials, 35 million patents, and their associated metrics.
Business: is it rocket science?
As technology cycles get shorter, the dynamic between science and business is shifting. New opportunities are emerging which will shape how to fund, organize and translate research for economic and social benefit. The London Institute hosted its first dinner on the science of business and the business of science. The dinner was organized by Simon Levin, Professor of Ecology at Princeton, Martin Reeves, Director of the BCG Henderson Institute, and Dr Thomas Fink. Discussion was led by Sir John Beddington, Tom Friedman, Simon Levin and Omar Selim.