Research councils scheme commits £1 million to boost farming sustainability and productivity

12 November 2014

NERC, the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and 14 industry partners have funded five research translation projects with a total value of £1 million (full economic cost) to address challenges to the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of UK farming.

Among the projects funded is work to better manage crop disease, to minimise nutrient loss from plants and to set up a knowledge exchange system between UK growers.

Understanding these areas better will give us insights into managing the agri-ecosystem, advance knowledge of nutrient cycles, help mitigate against climate change and boost food security.

The grants were funded as part of the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club (SARIC), which was developed by NERC and BBSRC, together with industry, to support innovative projects that will provide solutions to key challenges affecting the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.

Research translation grants support novel approaches to translating existing research data and knowledge into new tools, technologies and other outcomes that create tangible economic or societal benefits.

The funded research translation projects are:

Principal investigator Research partners Project title Full economic cost (£)
Fiona Borthwick SRUC, James Hutton Institute Enhancing innovation in barley integrated disease management with the application of an innovation systems approach to research translation 44,532*
Toby Bruce Rothamsted Research, AgriChatUK, NFU, AICC, Agri Intelligence, Hutchinsons Crop Production Specialists CROPROTECT: A knowledge exchange system to support UK growers in sustainable crop protection to allow efficient crop production 291,614
Ruben Sakrabani Cranfield University Enhancing nutrient use efficiency from biosolids for a resilient crop production system 142,937
Andrew Whitmore Rothamsted Research Biosolids, yield, organic amendments in soil: Research to mitigate leaching and denitrification (BYOSOLID) 239,971
Hao Zhang Lancaster University, Rothamsted Research Measuring plant available phosphorus to increase crop yields and minimise nutrient leaching 312,435

*Includes a contribution of 49% from the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)

ESRC will also co-fund one of the projects, 'enhancing innovation in barley disease management', contributing 49% of the project.

Professor Iain Gillespie, NERC's director of science & innovation, said:

"Major global challenges like food security are ones that a single discipline like 'environment' or 'bioscience' cannot solve alone. If we are ever going to address them, and indeed overcome them, then forging strong, multi-disciplinary partnerships between research councils and industry is vital. The investment in these projects marks the next step in us working together to deliver world-leading research, effective innovation and relevant benefits to society and the economy."

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC executive director, innovation & skills, said:

"Translating scientific findings into real-world impacts is a vital step in getting the most from research. SARIC is an excellent example of research councils working together to fund innovative solutions to address strategic priorities for both organisations that will benefit industry, the economy and the consumer."

Having contributed to informing and defining the challenges for SARIC, the club's industry members will continue to steer the programme, participate in funding decisions, and ultimately benefit from their involvement through early access to the research and translation outcomes. This five-year public-private partnership will result in approximately £10 million being invested to address key challenges identified by industry.

Both research grants and research translation grants will be funded through the SARIC programme. Industry partners pay a subscription fee to be part of SARIC.

The industry partners to SARIC are:

  • Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board
  • Anglian Water
  • Barworth Agriculture Ltd
  • Bayer CropScience
  • British Beet Research Organisation
  • Cawood Scientific
  • Crop Performance Ltd
  • Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water
  • Elsoms Seeds
  • Monsanto
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Processors & Growers Research Organisation
  • Syngenta
  • URSULA Agriculture

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1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £370 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

2. BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Their aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond. Funded by government, BBSRC invested over £484 million in world-class bioscience in 2013-14. They support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people they fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Their investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes is available.

3. ESRC funds research into the big social and economic questions facing us today. They also develop and train the UK's future social scientists. Their research informs public policies and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. Most importantly, it makes a real difference to all our lives. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the government. In 2015 the ESRC celebrates its 50th anniversary.