2. Delivery Plan
2.3 Converting innovations to solutions
The importance of protecting the natural environment is recognised at every level of government. It is explicit in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and embodied in international, national and local legislation. In the UK all devolved governments have stated their commitment to environmental protection through several key planning documents including Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, e.g. DEFRA’s A Green Future , The Environment (Wales) Act 2016  and the Scotland’s State of the Environment report . Omics innovations have the potential to deliver solutions to support the deliver of every aspect of environmental management (Box 3). These solutions can support the business sector that has developed to support the environmental aspirations defined by legislation. The Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and UK environmental goods and services sector (EGSS) representing ~2% of the UK’s national GDP in 2015 . This sector is predicted to grow as environmental testing becomes privatised and new environmental protection legislation is implemented. Additional markets aimed at early toxicity/ecotoxicology screening for pharmaceutical companies, chemical companies and companies related to food products are estimated to rise to >$20 billion globally in 2021, with equivalent food safety platforms projected to inject $17 billion into the global economy. Thus, environmental protection represents big business.
DEFRA led Centre of Excellence (CoE) for DNA based applications is being developed to ensure that government takes full advantage of the opportunities to protect and improve the environment offered by molecular and omics level tools. A key focus of this would be supporting the UK’s implementation of international environmental legislation, for example Water Framework Directive (WFD), Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), Habitats Directive (HD), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) requirements.
As part of this initiative, consultation with researchers and end users in May 2018 identified clearly the priorities, benefits and barriers to exploiting DNA based methods for environmental and ecological assessment. The application areas currently exploiting these approaches fell into four broad headings, ecosystems and biodiversity, animal and plant health, food safety and environmental pollution (Box 4). Key barriers to translation of research tools into this sector were identified as lack of co-ordinated funding to assist technology transfer together with the need for bioinformatics skills and knowledge transfer.
The formation of the UKRI with the integration of Innovate UK and business driven programs such as Industrial Strategy Fund provides an opportunity to drive further development of omics tools against government priorities. In addition, partnering with IEMA and EGSS industrial sectors will realise the economic benefits stemming from these technological advances. The omics Strategy mission will be to ensure that these exciting technical innovations are not limited to the research arena but have impact to society through regulatory and commercial application.