March 27, 2017

How to deliver and improved UK Agriscience sector outside of the EU

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

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 Common Agricultural Policy (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 upwhich 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 agrisciencethrough:

  • 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 non-governmental organisations
  • 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”.

Article source: Rothamsted Research