Kidney Research UK passes on the mantle to the next Bioindustry Association charity partner Our chief executive, Sandra Currie, reflects on the last year
I would like to congratulate Bowel Cancer UK on succeeding Kidney Research UK as the Bioindustry Association’s charity of the year for 2023. As we come to the end of our tenure as the charity partner, we are deeply appreciative of the exposure and fundraising opportunities that have been made possible.
I am very glad to see this exceptional opportunity go to the bowel cancer cause, particularly in the light of the recent sad passing of Aisling Burnand MBE from bowel cancer this year. Aisling had been a pivotal figure at the BIA where she had worked for 11 years, and she was a huge influence in the health industry and charity sector, most latterly as chief executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC). In my time as chief executive here, she provided significant support both for the charity and for me personally, and was still providing a great listening ear finding time to meet and talk until very recently. She led and inspired in equal measure.
The year for us has been very busy and there is a lot to reflect on from our partnership with the BIA: a host of networking and fundraising achievements; so many new people talking with us about our work and potential opportunities. Some of these are connections in the industry who are living with kidney disease, some are people we funded early in their academic career who now work in industry. We’ve met with people whose work is a great fit with our cause, and others who have been inspired by our patients’ stories describing the huge personal burden living with kidney disease brings.
In monetary terms, it has been a roaring success – BIA staff and members have helped to raise over £80,000 to help fund vital research. This is far more than we had expected, and will be put to good use to move our work forward. It started at the BIA Gala Dinner where a new competitive fundraising initiative raised a record breaking sum. Then in April, the BIA 850 Challenge saw 77 BIA members choose to walk, jog, run or cycle 850km or swim 8.5km for sponsorship, in acknowledgement of the 850 million people worldwide who are living with kidney disease. Members and staff also took part in Ride London Essex and a skydive, and a prize draw at the BIA’s BioProcess conference topped off the year’s amazing fundraising efforts. It has been heartwarming to see the generosity and enthusiasm shown by everyone involved. .
The partnership was always going to be about more than pure fundraising.
We have been given an important platform for 12 months to leverage political interest in the kidney cause, supporting the growth of our policy function and influence. Attending the BIA’s Parliament Day provided a great opportunity to talk to parliamentarians and civil servants about kidney disease and the importance of prevention and early detection. We were also at the BIA’s fringe event at the Conservative party conference and really valued the opportunity to network with representatives from the life sciences industry and apprentices.
Information sharing was also a key component for the year, helping increase knowledge at a personal and organisational level. On World Kidney Day we gave all BIA members access to our kidney health check, helping people consider their risk of kidney disease on an individual basis.
We also took part in a ‘sector-first’ diversity, equity and inclusion cross sector survey led by the BIA and run with Diversio, a globally leading diversity data company. Staff members were invited to comment on diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplace culture. We will get benefits of scale and insights that we couldn’t achieve on our own, as well as benchmarking our UK sector with a broader established global dataset. The insights and recommendations we receive will support our efforts in continuing to build a diverse and inclusive workplace both within the charity and across the wider ecosystem. We are looking forward to receiving the outcome of the survey early next year.
We are excited to be learning about apprenticeship opportunities led by Kate Barclay, and keen to explore if this may help us build capacity in the renal research community.
Knowledge and connections
As charity partner we have had the privilege of attending numerous BIA events and seminars, where we have soaked up the knowledge and insight on offer and met so many people with a role to play in advancing kidney research in the future. We can’t put a price on the industry and personal connections we have made, which will continue to be developed beyond the year.
Working with the BIA has helped set the agenda for a long-lasting strategic partnership. Introductions to BIA members have enabled us to gain mutual understanding of our joint aims and priorities and will help elevate the kidney patient voice in early and in translational research.
And the good news is, it won’t end there; we are just at the start of a productive and collaborative future with the BIA and its members. Kidney patients should see the benefits of these developments in years to come.
On behalf of the charity and kidney patients everywhere, I would like to thank the BIA for recognising the difference the charity partnership could make to our organisation and to the field of kidney research. Whilst the cost of living crisis creates undeniable turbulence for the charity sector, we face these challenges in an even stronger position to help kidney patients as a result of being the BIA’s charity of the year.
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