The Institute of Food Research (IFR) welcomes the UK Agri-Tech strategy, launched in July by the Government. The £160m new investment represents a positive step to making the UK a world-leader in emphasising the pivotal role of science and technology to deliver sufficient nutritious food for all in the future.
The UK is world-leading in plant and crop science and in post farm-gate fundamental and applied research. The Institute of Food Research addresses the fundamental relationships between food and health and the sustainability of the food chain. It works closely with industry and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), on a wide range of innovative translational research projects. It also runs the UK’s National Technology Platform for Food, which is a significant vehicle for bringing science and industry together for the benefit of the UK economy and society as a whole.
The strategy includes £70million to establish an Agri-Tech Catalyst, which will be operated in partnership between the TSB and the BBSRC. The Agri-Tech Catalyst will help translate fundamental scientific research into the marketplace by helping to reduce the risk of early stage innovation.
The IFR undertakes a large amount of translational research. For example, the IFR is responsible for bringing Beneforté broccoli from the laboratory to the supermarket shelf. Beneforté broccoli, produced from a long term collaboration between the IFR and the John Innes Centre, contains two to three times the amount of a compound, which is believed to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of cancers, as other varieties.
The Government’s Agri-Tech strategy aligns well with the EU’s proposed decision to fund a Knowledge Innovation Community (KIC) in food, developing products from the technology base to stimulate a new generation of entrepreneurs in this sector. The UK element of this bid is led by the IFR.
“The Agri-Tech Catalyst is an important step to strengthen public/private partnership funding in this sector, to develop its commercial competitiveness,” commented Professor David Boxer, Director of the IFR. “The involvement of both the TSB and BBSRC is welcomed since it is crucial that this fund articulates well with the science base.”
The strategy demonstrates the confidence government shows in the agri-tech sector and we welcome efforts to rebuild the links between fundamental and applied research.
The agri-tech sector is large, employing 3.8 million people and worth almost £100billion to the UK’s economy. It is also very diverse, including globally-recognised brands alongside SMEs. Maintaining the sector’s strengths will rely on innovation and adopting new technology, driven by the scientific findings coming from the UK’s science.
Implementing the agri-tech strategy will be overseen by the Leadership Council, which will champion the vision articulated in the strategy, attracting more inward investment and will oversee the investment in translational research. Made up from representatives of all partners across the food chain, the Leadership Council will also help bring this diverse sector together.
“The role of the Leadership Council is pivotal and we welcome recognition of the importance of the integrity and continuity of the food chain from the farm to the consumer,” commented Professor David Boxer.
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About the Institute of Food Research
The mission of the Institute of Food Research, www.ifr.ac.uk, is to undertake international quality scientific research relevant to food and human health and to work in partnership with others to provide underpinning science for consumers, policy makers, the food industry and academia. It is a company limited by guarantee, with charitable status.
IFR is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. IFR received a total of £14.4M investment from BBSRC in 2011-12.
The institutes deliver innovative, world class bioscience research and training, leading to wealth and job creation, generating high returns for the UK economy. They have strong links with business, industry and the wider community, and support policy development
The institutes’ research underpins key sectors of the UK economy such as agriculture, bioenergy, biotechnology, food and drink and pharmaceuticals. In addition, the institutes maintain unique research facilities of national importance.