University of Reading: Reading Joins National Agriculture Research Plan

The University of Reading and leading UK universities offering agriculture courses and research are uniting to agree joint research priorities.

Farmers, policy makers and others who have a stake in the industry’s future will be consulted as part of the first formal piece of work of the Agricultural Universities Council (AUC). The AUC sees 16 universities discuss shared opportunities and challenges that are unique to the sector.

Their first project will be to map existing agricultural research capacity across the UK for the first time in a decade, and work with farmers, as well as environmental, welfare and community groups, food businesses, and other stakeholders, to shape future research priorities.

With farming in the UK currently going through a rapid transition, the initiative responds to calls for more joined-up research and to ensure public investment in agricultural innovation makes a difference on the ground.

This new research initiative was announced today by Defra Secretary of State The Rt Hon George Eustice MP who was speaking at the launch of the UK Agriculture Partnership which took place at the Royal Agricultural University, which is one of the members of the AUC.

Professor Rob Edwards, Head of the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Newcastle University, who chairs the AUC, said:

“We already have a wealth of expertise and facilities for agricultural education and research across the UK but we can make even more of it, with more benefit for farming and the public, if we coordinate our efforts.

“That’s why this group of universities, from across the four nations of the UK, has decided to work together as the Agricultural Universities Council. Universities, like all sectors, are faced with a whole range of competing demands and pressures and I’ve been heartened by the huge goodwill and commitment our members have brought to working together.”

Professor Simon Mortimer, Head of the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading said:

“The past two years have reminded us of the absolute importance of farming to our society and economy, with farmers getting key worker status during pandemic lockdowns, and a recognition of the fundamental role that agriculture plays in a green future.

“It is more important than ever to understand and support the sector through the next set of transitions farming needs to make. The AUC means that we can speak to policy and decision makers with a combined voice of 16 leaders in agricultural teaching and research, backed up by the long tradition we have of working with farmers, community and interest groups.”

The AUC’s work to agree joint research priorities is being supported by the Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture. Launched in 2020, the Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture sees see five of the most prestigious agricultural universities in the UK work together to address the gap between scientific research on innovation and real-life farming experience. The centre will focus on how research and development investment can best support innovation to be adopted by farmers.

Dr David Rose, Co-Director of the Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture and Elizabeth Creak Associate Professor of Agricultural Innovation and Extension at the University of Reading said:

“The Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture works with funders, industry groups, and researchers to design and deliver innovation that makes a difference to farmers on the ground. We will support the AUC in their collaboration efforts, helping them to identify gaps and spot opportunities to do the research that farmers want and need.”

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