The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the largest funder of food-related research in the UK and food security is a central strategic priority for the organisation. As part of its portfolio of activities aimed at delivering research to support food security, BBSRC has been exploring the opportunities for funding a collaborative research initiative that will address key industry research challenges of importance to the horticulture sector. The science funded will be both excellent quality and industrially relevant. FPC has been involved in discussions to help identify areas for potential research.
BBSRC has identified five key areas where research is necessary to help improve food security:
- Improving resource use efficiency.
- Biological approaches to crop protection.
- Adapting to climate change.
- Understanding the biological processes associated with maturity and post harvest quality.
- Seed quality and vigour.
BBSRC currently funds a number of Research and Technology Clubs to support industrially relevant research in key strategic areas. Such a Club was considered for the horticulture industry but was not felt to be appropriate to the needs and structure of this sector. Therefore a different mechanism is proposed here, but one that would aim to deliver many of the same benefits to industry and the research community.
At the workshop industry buy-in was sought for an alternative mechanism to support collaborative research between industry and academia which addresses pre-competitive industrially-relevant challenges. Projects would need to have a minimum of 10% industry contribution with a minimum of 5% cash. Applications would be encouraged that are broad in scope and that are relevant to either a number of different horticulture crops or a number of elements in the food supply chain. It is expected that there will be two calls for proposals as part of this initiative.
Part of BBSRC’s objective for this activity would be to strengthen the links between industry and the relevant components of the academic research base by fostering a lasting network. One of the ways that this might be achieved is through Dissemination Events where all of the partners involved in the initiative come together to share their results and updates on progress.
BBSRC is working on developing a number of research challenges that could form the basis of the first call for this initiative. The challenges, together with the proposed models, will then be discussed by the relevant Strategy Advisory Panels within BBSRC before final activities are agreed. Final plans will be announced early in 2012.