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Public-private research partnership to develop improved crops for food security

11 March 2010

A new research initiative has been launched to accelerate the development of improved crops with higher yields and consistent, high quality products. The £6M Crop Improvement Research Club (CIRC) is led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the UK's largest public funder of agri-food research and includes the Scottish Government and 13 companies representing plant breeders, farmers and food processors. The Club will focus on funding research to improve oilseed rape, barley and wheat for human and animal consumption.

Both the public sector and company members of the Club are contributing to the total research fund. £6M of funding is available to research teams to conduct research to improve our understanding of yield and quality traits in the CIRC crops and the genetic and environmental factors that affect them.

Specific challenges that CIRC aims to tackle include increasing the efficiency of nutrient use by plants, understanding seed structure, better understanding germination and investigating factors that lead to crop spoilage.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills, said: "Delivering food security is going to require partnership between public research funders and the private sector R&D. There is huge potential to use science to improve key UK crops to benefit farmers and consumers. This includes the potential to increase volume and nutritional quality of food produced and reducing losses to pests and diseases.

"Through the Crop Improvement Research Club, plant breeding companies are working with BBSRC and the Scottish Government to fund projects that will make an impact on the quality and yields of wheat, barley and oilseed rape varieties that farmers will be growing in the future."

The company members of CIRC provide important input to the strategic direction of the Club's research. This ensures that the Club is broadly directing its funding to areas where the commercial sector sees scientific bottlenecks. This means the funding pot is being used to tackle problems that will have benefits for food producers and wider society.

Simon Hook, Chair of CIRC and Research Manager at HGCA, said: "BBSRC's research and technology club model has worked effectively for a number of other sectors. With the current emphasis on food security and the need to find ways to provide a growing population sustainably with affordable, high quality food, it is the right time to use this approach for crop improvement. The company members play an important role alongside BBSRC and the Scottish Government. In addition to their contributions to the funding pot they will fully contribute through the steering group to the direction of the Club and work with funded scientists to translate the outcomes."

The company members of CIRC are:

  • BASF Plant Science Company GMBH
  • Campden Technology Ltd
  • Elsoms Seeds
  • HGCA
  • KWS UK Ltd
  • Limagrain UK Ltd
  • Monsanto UK Ltd
  • National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim)
  • RAGT Seeds Ltd
  • The Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI)
  • Syngenta Seeds Ltd
  • United Oilseeds Marketing Ltd
  • Velcourt

BBSRC contributes to the new Global Food Security Programme. Global Food Security is a multi-agency programme bringing together the research interests of the Research Councils, Executive Agencies and Government Departments.

ENDS

About CIRC

The Crop Improvement Research Club (CIRC) is managed by BBSRC. BBSRC is the principal funder of food-related research in the UK and has food security as one of its key strategic drivers.

CIRC has been established with 13 founding company members and the Scottish Government.

For more information on CIRC see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/circ

About Research and Technology Clubs

The Research and Technology Club model has been employed successfully by BBSRC to promote research activity to support a number of sectors:

  • BRIC - Bioprocessing Research Industry Club
  • DRINC - Diet and Health Research Industry Club
  • IBTI - Integrated Biorefining Research Industry Club

For more information on the Research and Technology Clubs see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/industryclubs

About BBSRC

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 in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Studies (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

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
fax: 01793 413382

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382