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Evaluation of Scottish Bioinformatics Forum


The Scottish Bioinformatics Forum (SBF) is designed to raise awareness, promote collaboration and enhance the life sciences sector in Scotland. The SBF is jointly funded through the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) (formerly SHEFC), the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise (SE). SE funding support was approved in 2004, although the project in its current form did not commence until 2006. The evaluation considers the four year period 2006-2010. It assesses: the strategic fit of the project; strategic rationale; project performance and benefits achieved; economic impact; project delivery and governance; management information; linkages and dependencies; project learning; and the contribution to the equity and equalities agenda.


The evaluation was conducted in four stages: an inception meeting was undertaken with the client to confirm the scope of the study and arrange access to relevant background documentation; relevant background documents were reviewed to gain a broader understanding of the project including approval paper, project expenditure and project activities; fieldwork was undertaken through discussions with stakeholders and partners and an online survey of SBF member organisations/participants in SBF services was undertaken; and the outputs from previous stages were analysed before the preparation of the draft report.


The project has a strong strategic fit and contributes to a number of over-arching policies, in particular the Government Economic Strategy (GES) and SE Life Sciences Strategy. The key contribution towards the objectives of these policies is made through SBF’s focus on enhancing and raising awareness of the potential opportunity for collaboration and knowledge transfer. However, it is recognised there has been little industry engagement or commercial opportunities generated through the SBF. A number of key impacts and outcomes were identified: the SBF is the key organisation in co-ordinating activity in bioinformatics across Scotland and has helped to establish a platform for inter-institution and industry engagement; the project has helped to assist some academia-industry collaboration projects including the NHS Bio-repository Pathology Department and Strathclyde University Drug Discovery Portal; it has supported eight industrial placements and established summer schools that have helped the research community; and, although not a key target, it has delivered small levels of indirect economic benefit. Through identifying research grants, the SBF has helped support up to nine research jobs over the short-medium term. The survey identified that a further three organisations have created short-term research employment through new research projects undertaken after engaging with the SBF, and support of the Drug Discovery Portal has allowed the department to further develop their screening capabilities and potentially offer this service commercially. Although the project has been a success overall, a number of key issues were identified: miscommunication with project funders; a lack of formal monitoring or reporting systems; a general failure to engage with industry and promote academia-industry collaboration; limited impact in attracting inward investment and promoting international collaborations; whilst some of the project objectives seem overly ambitious.


There remains a strategic rationale for continued delivery of the project, although there may be a need to refocus the project to secure a greater level of industry collaboration and meet the funding criteria of potential support organisations. For future delivery, it is recommended that: the strategic objectives of the project be reviewed; a more formal monitoring system should be adopted/implemented; the presence of an industry representative within the Steering Group could help promote engagement with industry and highlight commercial benefits of industry-academia collaborations; the SBF should review other potential funding sources to support the continued delivery and possible expansion of the project; and there may be a need to refocus SBF objectives and activities if there is any change to the key funders.

Author EKOS Ltd
Published Year 2011
Report Type Evaluation
  • Sectors
    Life Sciences