Agricultural universities team up on research plan

Thursday 27th January 2022, 5:00pm

More than a dozen universities that offer courses in agriculture and carry out agricultural research are getting together to agree on joint agricultural research priorities, working with farmers and others who have a stake in the industryís future.

farmers inspecting straw - credit Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security

The Agricultural Universities Council unites 16 UK institutions on teaching and research.

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security on Easter Bush Campus will be taking part in a new UK Agriculture Partnership to collaborate on education and research for farmers and the agri-food sector. 

With farming in the UK currently going through a rapid transition, the initiative responds to calls for more joined-up research and to ensure public investment in agricultural innovation makes a difference on the ground.

Sixteen universities recently came together to form the Agricultural Universities Council (AUC), which will engage with all four Governments in the UK in its ongoing work.

The Councilís first project will be to map existing agricultural research capacity across the UK for the first time in a decade, and work with farmers, as well as environmental, welfare and community groups, food businesses, and other stakeholders, to shape future research priorities.

This initiative was announced by Defra Secretary of State The Rt Hon George Eustice MP, who was speaking at the launch of the UK Agriculture Partnership at the Royal Agricultural University, which is one of the members of the AUC.

"Weíre pleased to be part of the Agricultural Universities Council and look forward to collaborating with other UK agricultural institutions on education and research for farmers and the agri-food sector."

Professor Geoff Simm, Director, Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security

"We already have a wealth of expertise and facilities for agricultural education and research across the UK but we can make even more of it, with more benefit for farming and the public, if we coordinate our efforts. Thatís why this group of universities, from across the four nations of the UK, has decided to work together as the Agricultural Universities Council.

Universities, like all sectors, are faced with a whole range of competing demands and pressures and Iíve been heartened by the huge goodwill and commitment our members have brought to working together."

Professor Rob Edwards, Head of the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Newcastle University, and chair of the AUC

The AUCís work to agree joint research priorities is being supported by the Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture (CEIA). 

"Farmers, industry, and public interest groups have longstanding concerns about the impact of publicly funded research. Some of this frustration is shared by scientists, particularly when they find themselves competing for research grants when it would make more sense to collaborate. At this hugely challenging time for farming, it is really refreshing that so many leading research institutions are teaming up to help address this."

Professor Tom MacMillan, Elizabeth Creak Chair in Rural Policy and Strategy, Royal Agricultural University