Innovation news in brief: UKRI; Brexit; health; anti-corruption hub; microbiomes

UKRI will integrate the current research functions of HEFCE

Banker to set up and chair UKRI

A former banker will be setting up UK Research and Innovation, a new £6 billion public body being proposed by the government that brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and the research functions currently performed by HEFCE.

John Kingman, a senior Treasury official at the centre of the 2008 bank bailouts, previously worked for Rothschild and has “extensive contacts in the City of London”, reports the FT.

Jo Johnson, universities and science minister, told the newspaper: “As someone who has overseen five spending reviews which prioritised science, John is uniquely placed to set up this new organisation.”

Kingman’s appointment as chair of the UKRI is seen as a temporary measure for the initial setting up phase only; scientists are expected to lead the new organisation in the long term.

Brexit: No support from Britain’s ‘unicorns’

None of Britain’s ‘unicorns’ – private companies with a valuation above $1bn (£710m) – will support Britain leaving the EU, the Guardian reports.

Of the 14 companies on the list, five have come out as explicitly against Britain’s exit from the EU, while the rest either remained officially neutral or declined to comment on the matter.

Public health champion set to lead exercise revolution

One of the UK’s leading public health experts is set to help people across the country lead more active and healthier lives as part of a new role at a pioneering national sport and exercise medicine centre based in Sheffield.

Elizabeth Goyder, professor of public health at the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research has been appointed Director of Research at the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine in Sheffield.

As part of her new role, Prof Goyder will work with world-class researchers from both the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University to explore innovative and effective ways to help communities become more active.

The position will also help researchers identify how exercise and physical activity can improve the wellbeing of people with chronic health conditions.

Green light for anti-corruption innovation hub

Together with nine other countries, the UK government is to create an anti-corruption innovation hub to share innovation and best practice, reports

The new hub aims to “connect social innovators, technology experts and data scientists with law enforcement, business and civil society” to work together on innovations on anti-corruption.

US government to probe the world of microbiomes

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has launched the National Microbiome Initiative, a $121 million project to understand microbiomes – the complex communities of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that live on or in everything from soil and the oceans, to our faces and intestines, reports New Scientist.

Disruptions to our own microbial communities have been implicated in a host of diseases, including obesity, autism, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel disease and mental health.

But the microbiome affects the environment too. Imbalances in microbial communities can lead to zones of low oxygen in our oceans – killing off fish – while agricultural depletion of bacteria can lead to barren soils.

Short-term approach to business costs UK firms £130 billion

A focus on short term profits is holding back companies from creating greater economic and societal value worth £130 billion, according to a new report highlighted in The Herald.

Shareholder fragmentation along with idiosyncratic legal and regulatory systems also contribute to the UK business ecosystem working against the creation of "purposeful" companies, says the Big Innovation Centre report.

The report, published by a taskforce established by Big Innovation Centre and supported by the Bank of England, states that if the pursuit of "visionary purpose" is put at the heart of British business an additional £130 billion a year could be added to British company valuations.