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New report details strategically important agricultural research facilities

12 May 2009

An independent report has been published today (12 May) which details the public sector facilities vital to the future of UK agricultural and land-based research.

The report, by consultants A D Little, was commissioned by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of UK public stakeholders. In addition to cataloguing the UK’s facilities it details 24 strategically important resources, across 15 UK institutions, that were identified as being crucial to the delivery of land-based research.

The report – the BBSRC Study of Land-Based Facilities and Resources – can be downloaded from: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/organisation/policies/reviews/operational/0905_landbased_facilities_report.html

The report notes that the UK has world-class agricultural research facilities and resources which are underpinning research into meeting key future challenges, such as food security, tackling endemic and emerging animal diseases, and developing sustainable bioenergy. However, it also warns of risks to these facilities. The nature of land-based facilities means that they are fixed and dependent on particular agricultural land and associated science infrastructure. The report highlights the threat to such facilities if they are dependent on single funders and subject to short term priorities.  

The skills and expertise associated with the facilities is also a key resource and it is important for UK funders to maintain the skills base in this sector. The importance of the role of these facilities in training the next generation of researchers is also highlighted in the report.

Included in the identified 24 resources are 10 different facilities across Rothamsted Research and the Institute for Animal Health, both institutes of BBSRC. These include the ‘classical’ long-term field experiments at Rothamsted and the high-level containment facilities at IAH Pirbright.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “This report demonstrates the very great importance of a relatively small number of strategic resources that the UK needs to deliver land-based research. The very nature of land-based research facilities means they cannot be set up and shut down at short notice and BBSRC will be working with all relevant stakeholders to inform long-term funding strategies.

“I am pleased to see that the importance of the land-based, plant science and animal health facilities at BBSRC’s Institutes or former Institutes is recognised in the report. These institutes host over half of the UK’s strategically important facilities.”

In order to minimise the workload on the agricultural and land-use stakeholder community, data gathering for this report was shared with Defra. The Department has used the data collected as part of a separate, wider study of the research capabilities needed to inform its future evidence requirements.

ENDS

Notes to editors

‘BBSRC Study of Land-Based Facilities and Resources’ was written by independent consultants Arthur D. Little Ltd.

The report was commissioned by BBSRC and HEFCE on behalf of the public stakeholders of land-based research - Defra, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland, HEFCE, Natural Environment Research Council, The Scottish Government, Scottish Funding Council, the Welsh Assembly Government and Welsh Higher Education Funding Council.

The 24 strategically important land-based research facilities are:

  • Woodchester Park wildlife sampling site - Central Science Laboratory
  • North Wyke Research Platform - BBSRC (formally part of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research) 
  • Hartwood Field Station - Macaulay Institute
  • “Classical” experiments - Rothamsted Research
  • Insect Survey and database - Rothamsted Research
  • Organic and non-organic crop rotation trials - Scottish Agricultural College 
  • Cockle Park Farm - University of Newcastle
  • Medium and high biosecurity facilities – IAH Compton
  • Gnotobiotic unit - IAH Compton
  • MHC cattle herd - IAH Compton
  • Experimental poultry unit and inbred chicken lines - IAH Compton
  • Insectaries - IAH Pirbright
  • High containment biosecurity facilities - IAH Pirbright
  • Animal holding facility - Moredun Research Institute
  • Specialist housing and pasture - Veterinary Laboratories Agency
  • Trawscoed research farm - Aberystwyth University
  • University farms - University of Reading
  • Large animal facility - Roslin Institute
  • Gogerddan Farm - Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research
  • Genetic Resources Unit - John Innes Centre
  • National Willows Collection - Rothamsted Research
  • Living plant collections - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Commonwealth Potato Collection - Scottish Crop Research Institute
  • LEAF Innovation Farm - Scottish Crop Research Institute

178 land-based research providers were personally contacted in data-gathering for this report.

The report identifies 24 shortlisted strategically important resources at 15 Institutions, strategically funded or managed by BBSRC, Scottish Government, Central Government and 4 universities - Reading and Newcastle, and Aberystwyth and Edinburgh (through the transfer of the former BBSRC Institutes, Roslin and IGER)

The project was initiated in 2007, with the key joint data gathering with Defra’s Capability report from November 2007 to September 2008.

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382