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Global Britain, Global Health

Bill Gates backs British innovation, challenges UK government to step up investment in science and R&D

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

LONDON/SEATTLE (October 27, 2016) - Today Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, and Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, will join over 1,000 of the world’s leading scientists in London to celebrate the Grand Challenges programme that finds solutions to the toughest problems in health and development. Grand Challenges partners have invested more than $1 billion into more than 2,000 innovations from 87 countries. Also today, a ground-breaking new programme to fight Zika, Dengue and Yellow Fever will be announced.

  • Gates will praise Britain for its “extraordinary leadership in science and innovation, which has been good for Britain and good for the world” and will call for the UK government to increase its own investments in science and R&D to safeguard Britain’s global leadership as the UK negotiates its exit from the EU. Gates will underscore his own commitment to the UK, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continuing its $1 billion investment programme in British research and innovation.
  • His remarks come as over 1,000 of the world’s leading scientists come together at the Grand Challenges conference in London this week. This initiative provides financial incentives to the world’s leading scientists to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. It has awarded more than 2,000 grants in 87 countries to, amongst others, create and improve vaccines, control insects that spread disease, cure infections, and limit drug resistance.  British grants include an Imperial College project using genetic material to cause dramatic reductions in the population of malaria and Zika transmitting mosquitos; an Oxford University study for a potential malaria vaccine; research at University College London on pioneering new approaches to measure children’s cognitive development; and a ground-breaking breakthrough in the search for TB treatments.
  • The conference will culminate with the announcement of a new $18 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the governments of the UK, US, Colombia, and Brazil to prevent the spread of mosquito borne diseases like Zika, dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow fever, which could protect 2.5 billion people around the world from these diseases.
  • Also today, in partnership with the British Science Association’s CREST Awards, Bill Gates has launched the Youth Grand Challenges programme for school children aimed at inspiring the next generation of great British scientists and innovators.
  • Later today, Bill Gates will join Grammy-award winning musician and advocate for education,, in a celebration of British innovation at the Evening Standard’s Progress Conversation at the Science Museum in London. This will be followed by an exciting Lates, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where over 150 researchers and scientists will help thousands of visitors discover more about infectious diseases and how we can protect ourselves from the threat of contagion.

Celebration of Britain’s leadership in science and innovation, as Grand Challenges comes to London

Founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in 2003, the Grand Challenges is an initiative which seeks to incentivise the best and brightest minds to find solutions to the most pressing problems facing people in the developing world.

Inspired by the 18th century Longitude Prize and Hilbert’s problems in mathematics, anyone, whether they be students or professors, from universities, government, or the private sector, can apply for a grant of $100,000 rising to $1,000,000 if they have an innovative idea which could lead to breakthrough advances in health and development challenges.

After more than a decade of innovation, the Grand Challenges conference has come to the UK for the first time. Over the last few days, leading scientists from around the world have convened at the Queen Elizabeth II centre to demonstrate their innovations and to share ideas on topics ranging from crop research, vaccines, and antimicrobial resistance to menstrual hygiene, cognitive development and mental health.

Scale-up of ground-breaking innovation to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, Dengue and Yellow Fever announced

A ground-breaking innovation that received funding from the Grand Challenges programme comes from Scott O’Neill of Monash University in Australia. He has discovered a way to inoculate the Aedes aegypti mosquito with a bacteria called Wolbachia that prevents these mosquitos from passing Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow fever on to people.

Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, together with the Wellcome Trust and the governments of the UK, US, Colombia, and Brazil, are committing $18 million in new funding to scale-up field trials of this Wolbachia method across Latin America. If these trials are successful, the Wolbachia method could be scaled up across the tropics and sub-tropics in the next decade, helping to protect 2.5 billion people from these diseases. 

Gates renews his commitment to British science and R&D, and calls for the UK to step up its investments in science and innovation to tackle the great challenges of our time

At the closing plenary of the Grand Challenges Conference later today, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin and Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, will come together to celebrate the role that Britain has played as a global centre of innovation.

Bill Gates will say, “The world needs innovative leadership now more than ever. The complexity of our most urgent global problems – extreme poverty, the persistence and spread of disease, feeding a growing world – requires that we invest in science and put our best minds to work on finding solutions. As the UK seeks to negotiate its exit from the EU, it is critical that the government steps up its investments in science and innovation if we are to meet the challenges of tomorrow – and grow the UK’s economy.”

Gates will go on to say, “If we want more and better jobs, greater equality, and a better healthier life for our children, then we need to invest in the science and technology that will cement the UK’s place as a leading global innovation hub. If we want to keep safe from the spread of disease, tackle extreme poverty, combat the causes of forced migration, and deal with the challenge of climate change, then we need to apply that same relentless focus on innovation to these problems.

Our foundation has a rich set of partnerships with universities and research institutes across the UK that deliver the life-changing innovations the developing world so desperately needs – innovations that are only possible because of the British government’s continued commitment to R&D funding and international development. I look forward to continuing to work with an outward-looking, global Britain that plays a vital role in innovating not only for itself, but also for the world.”

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, will speak about the critical role of private capital in driving innovation, saying, “British scientists, engineers and innovators have been responsible for some truly transformative developments in health and poverty alleviation over the years but these changes are not possible without sustained investment. Philanthropists, government and business all have a role to play to maintain this effort. These investments benefit British businesses as well as the most vulnerable people in the world."

Today will also see the launch of a project by think tank Policy Exchange to assess the impact that Britain’s investment in R&D for the developing world has had on the UK and on solving some of the world’s most urgent global health challenges. It will consider the role that continued investment in this type of R&D will have for Britain’s future role in the world and as part of the government’s modern industrial strategy. The scoping document can be found here. The paper will feature a contribution from George Freeman MP, Chairman of the Prime Minister's new No 10 Policy Board and Minister for Life Sciences, 2014-2016, responsible for U.K. global health research.

Young people need to be inspired to help find solutions to the great challenges of our time as the Youth Grand Challenges launch


Also this morning, Bill Gates launched the Youth Grand Challenges in partnership with the British Science Association’s CREST Awards. Aimed at inspiring young people, aged 11-to-19, to see how science and technology can be used to tackle global health issues, it will challenge students to use their skills, passions and interests to develop innovative solutions that have the potential to change the world. The individuals and teams judged to have the best projects will have the opportunity to participate in an international trip to see medical research in action and the chance to be mentored by some of the UK’s leading scientists. Find out more at

Glittering celebration of British leadership in science and innovation at Science Museum

Later today, Bill Gates will join Grammy-award winning musician and advocate for education,, on stage at the Science Museum to address celebrity supporters, politicians and the public in a glittering celebration of British innovation at the Evening Standard Progress Conversation hosted at the Science Museum.

The event will be followed by the Science Museum’s CONTAGION Lates, where members of the public can discover more about infectious diseases and how we can protect ourselves from the threat of contagion. Visitors can explore the Malaria Zone to test how tasty their blood is for mosquitos, visit the Ebola Zone's treatment centre to find out more about the life saving techniques used in the field, and meet the heroes who helped contain the Ebola epidemic. Visitors to Lates can also enjoy live DJs, the Punk Science comedy show, and the best silent disco in London.  

Global Britain, Global Health

With a rich tradition of success, a supportive government and a creative private sector, the UK is at the forefront of the global fight to alleviate poverty and improve global health. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is proud to continue to partner with the UK government and the British people to fight disease and end extreme poverty.


About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About the Science Museum

As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement. More information can be found at

About the British Science Association

The British Science Association (BSA) believes that science should be part of – rather than set apart from – society and culture, and is owned by the wider community.  Our programmes encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with science, become ambassadors for science, and ultimately to be empowered to challenge and influence British science - whether they work in science or not.  Established in 1831, the BSA is a registered charity that organises major initiatives across the UK, including British Science Week, the annual British Science Festival, regional and local events, the CREST Awards and other programmes for young people in schools and colleges. The BSA also organises specific activities for professional science communicators, including a specialist conference and training. For more information, please visit


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