It would be a massive understatement to describe 2020 as “challenging” – it was a year that affected all of us in so many ways.  I do hope that you and your family, as well as your colleagues, start the year in good health.

For UKSPA, 2020 started positively through a very well supported Membership Survey. This provided an insight from members on the future direction of the Association at a time of change for the science and innovation sector.

Members expressed clear support for increased, and pro-active policy engagement alongside the expansion of our events and communications.

March 2020 saw a well-attended UKSPA event with the mix of good practice and strategic sessions accompanied by informal discussions over lunches, coffee breaks and the networking Reception and Dinner.

The week after the conference new Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first budget was delivered which he described as putting “science, innovation and technology at the heart of the UK’s investment strategy”.

However, just two weeks later the first lockdown began and UKSPA’s immediate focus was on supporting members and briefing HM Treasury, BEIS as well as the devolved administrations on the impact of Covid-19 on members and the companies they support.

March 2020 also saw the highest membership in UKSPA’s 36 year history and it is gratifying that membership has broadly remained at this level throughout the pandemic and as we enter 2021.  I am grateful for the continued support from members and the positive feedback that we have received – particularly about our webinar programme – over the course of the year.

From May to December 2020 we put on 26 incredibly well attended webinars. The move to virtual meeting also corresponded with the launch of the new UKSPA website and our aim is to deliver more features over the next few months.

November 2020 also saw the election of two new UKSPA Board members – Rhian Haywood and Sally Basker, as well as the appointment of Alice Reeve and Joe Caine as co-opted UKSPA Board members. The election had an unprecedented nine nominations for the two director positions and they join a Board that is committed to delivering real value to all of our members.

2020 ended with our first ever virtual AGM in late December and looked at the challenges, but also the opportunities that we will continue to face this year.

In 2021 we will continue our programme of webinars and the first three scheduled are:

  • Thursday 21st January – Covid Update: Lessons from the past, the present and future challenges, registration will be open in the the coming days
  • Thursday 4th February – Adapting Office buildings for laboratory use
  • Thursday 18 February  – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

We are also taking forward our policy and research ambitions and more details will be circulated to members at the end of this month.  There are already a number of projects underway including:

  • Publishing a fully revised third edition of our “Planning, Development and Operation of Science Parks” publication and there will be opportunities for members to contribute case studies to support this initiative,
  • Delivering a new “UKSPA Business Directory” to further promote and add value to our Business Members,
  • Returning to our in-person events with a hybrid personal/virtual audience which we hope will take place in May/June 2021 as well as
  • Launching the new Members area on the UKSPA website that will deliver added value content to all members.

There is much to look forward to in 2021 and we will update you as our plans develop. 

I do hope that the next twelve months are both successful and healthy for you. The UKSPA Executive Team and myself very much look forward to working with you this year and beyond.

Jim Duvall, Executive Director, United Kingdom Science Park Association