VIEWPOINT

HOW TO DELIVER AN IMPROVED UK AGRISCIENCE SECTOR OUTSIDE OF THE EU

Rothamsted Research and the NFU convened a workshop identifying the key areas of focus in order to have a world leading agriscience sector in the UK after Brexit.

  • 27
  • MAR
  • 2017

Recommendations
The case for investment in the agrifood science base has been made by the AgriFood Technology Council and Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund consultation. In a UK outside of the EU, agricultural science and research has an opportunity to work to an improved model and become more effective at delivering what is needed. On the basis of the UK government not contributing to the EU budget and CAP, a proportion of the available budget should be invested in agricultural science in the UK in order to make farming highly competitive in the new market environment. Building on the success of the AgriTech strategy, there are potentially opportunities ahead for investment models in agricultural science in order to maintain the UK as a leader in the field internationally. To achieve high-returns of that investment, the following interlinked issues and challenges must be addressed, by Government, research community and private sector:

Improved funding models and mechanisms should be set up, which will:

  • Facilitate and encourage greater collaboration and accelerate leaner science with more concrete outputs by being more strategic, simpler, less bureaucratic, and more joined-up and accessible;
  • Balance better between the needs of fundamental, applied and translational research and development, specifically addressing the particular needs of agriculture for longer term approaches;
  • Be based on an agreed calculation of how much the UK should be spending on agricultural research, relative to our competitors and to meet our productivity, efficiency and environmental goals; Enable continued access to EU and international funding streams, through negotiating the optimum status and position of the UK in mechanisms such as Horizon 2020;

UK agriscience must look at and learn from funding mechanisms that are working well in other countries, in other sectors and at various scales, including models that are demand-driven and better integrate levy-based support for research, knowledge exchange and skills development with government investments.

Policy across all parts of Government and its agencies should be aligned to deliver an improved model for agriscience, through:

  • Being very clear about what the challenge and goals are for UK agriculture, and ensuring research and innovation strategies can support and deliver solutions;
  • Demonstrating return on investment of agricultural research in terms of performance and competitiveness, for businesses, economy, environment and wider society; This will also require better impact measures and incentive systems for science organisations and scientists.
  • Attracting a skilled labour force for science, industry and farming;
  • Channelling investment programmes within new domestic agriculture policy to support KE, extension, on-farm innovation and adoption of new practices and technologies;
  • UK policy should seek to provide effective frameworks that are conducive for both responsible innovation and international competiveness.

Collaboration and join-up should be increased, between:

  • Research organisations, including Agritech Centres
  • Funders and their funding mechanisms
  • Public/academic, private/industrial sectors, including farm businesses and NGOs
  • Countries, in EU and internationally
  • Government departments and agencies, and their policies

Effective coordination and collaboration will require long term and reliable funding mechanisms, demonstrating value, driving culture change, providing career opportunities and facilitating genuine knowledge exchange (KE) between and within all these “parties”.

The following organisations attended the workshop and engaged in the development of these recommendations:
ADAS
AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board)
Agrii
Agrimetrics
Agri-Tech East
AIC (Agricultural Industries Confederation)
AICC (The Association of Independent Crop Consultants)
Bayer AG
CPA (Crop Protection Association)
Cranfield University
Harper Adams University
IBERS (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences)
Innovate UK
John Innes Centre
LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming)
NFU (National Farmers’ Union)
NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany)
Rothamsted Research

BBSRC and Defra representatives as well as Anthea McIntyre, MEP West Midlands, attended the workshop as observers.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

About BBSRC
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our 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 £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.