The final Instruct-ULTRA General Assembly (GA) took place on 26 November 2020. As the final GA of the ULTRA project, the event was an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and outcomes of the ULTRA project, while also looking ahead to the continuation of this work through Instruct-ERIC. The meeting, which was attended by 40 representatives from across the ULTRA partners, included both presentations and discussions.
The opening session, Strategic Developments, focussed on core activities of the ULTRA project relating to the main aim ‘to advance the scope and efficiency of implementation of Instruct and consolidate the foundations for long-term sustainability’. In the first talk, Instruct-ERIC Director, David Stuart, reflected on ULTRA’s efforts in areas such as accessing EU structural funds, sustainability planning and innovation management. This was followed by a presentation from Instruct-ULTRA Project Manager, Naomi Gray, who described efforts in internationalisation with Latin America and India, as well as developments in outreach to new scientific communities through a targeted conference programme. Finally, Stephanie Chapman, Instruct-ULTRA Communications and Outreach Project Associate, shared highlights and outcomes from ULTRAs communication activities.
In the second session, scientists showcased some of the key scientific outcomes of ULTRA-funded research projects. The variety of subject areas, which included cryo-EM, mass spectrometry, NMR and data management, demonstrated the breadth and impact of ULTRA funding on technology developments.
In the third and final part of the meeting, participants were divided into three, chaired breakout rooms to discuss: 'What should be continued/built on, now that the work planned for the ULTRA project has been completed?' Within this question, participants were invited to consider:
The breakout sessions gave participants an opportunity to share their perspective on the most significant outcomes of the ULTRA project. The feedback from the discussions was enlightening, with participants raising concerns around future funding for technology development, and the possibilities for partnerships outside Instruct membership, such as those enabled by ULTRA (eg with Germany and Sweden). Most noticeably, ULTRA’s communication efforts were recognised as an important outcome of the project, marking a huge step forward in professionalisation and recognition of the RI and there was endorsement for these activities to be continued after the ULTRA project.
Finally, Stephen Burley, chair of the Instruct-ULTRA Scientific Advisory Board, delivered an informative and thought-provoking talk on the future of structural biology, describing the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, and explaining the role and responsibility of the scientific community in preparing for future pandemics.
With the ULTRA project drawing to a close, the meeting was a welcome opportunity to share and acknowledge partners’ work and, importantly, to feedback to Instruct-ERIC on the key activities that merit resourcing after completion of Instruct-ULTRA.
Recordings of the scientific talks can be found on the Instruct website.