Waitrose has become the first retailer to successfully apply to lead the delivery of a major investment in doctoral training by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The money will be invested in 15 separate PhD projects focusing on food security and sustainability.
Waitrose is leading a consortium of academic partners, including Lancaster University, the University of Warwick, the University of Reading and the agricultural research station Rothamsted Research to manage this work.
The research will also involve working in partnership with the Waitrose Agronomy Group, which is made up of key fruit and vegetable suppliers.
Projects are likely to focus on key areas for Waitrose and its growers: soil health, biodiversity, sustainable water use, reducing crop waste and minimising chemical use during the cultivation of produce. Candidates carrying out this work will be selected over be next three years.
The cash is a share of a total of £19m awarded to support world-class industry-led doctoral training. In total this investment will train and develop 189 PhD students to produce skilled people for the research base and build capability in the UK workforce.
Alan Wilson, Waitrose’s Technical Manager for Fresh Produce said: “Waitrose is delighted to have been appointed a lead organisation for this industry-led collaborative training programme. Our evidence shows that there is a clear need to provide new thinking to address the challenges involved in delivering a more secure and sustainable food system. This has the potential to really make a difference in changing how produce is cultivated in the future.”
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy the RT Honourable Greg Clark said: “Furthering collaboration between government, academia and industry is a key part of the industrial strategy we’re developing. Collaborative Training Partnerships will boost the UK’s world-leading reputation for research and science while increasing the talent and expertise of our workforce in the UK and providing new opportunities for the science leaders of tomorrow.”
Dr Karen Lewis, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills said: “Bioscience impacts on our lives in many ways. BBSRC strives to harness the power of bioscience to deliver a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for the UK and beyond. To achieve this we need to maintain our leading position in global bioscience by ensuring that the next generation of scientists have the best training and skills and Collaborative Training Partnerships will play a key role in achieving this.”
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 £473m in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. 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.