There are many global challenges where crops have an important role to play – the prediction that the world’s population is predicted to increase from 7 billion now to 9 billion in 2050 (PDF), demand for meat will increase by 40% by 2025 and the fact that 30% of all crops in Africa (PDF) are destroyed by insects and weeds are just a few of the issues facing us globally. [...]
I had a very enjoyable visit North of the Border last week. This was primarily to visit The Roslin Institute but I also met with scientists from Scotland’s Rural Collage (SRUC) and the Moredun Research Institute. The Easter Bush campus, home to these institutions and others is clearly an exciting place to be and the quality of the science I saw was excellent – too much to single out examples! The design of the Roslin building was particularly interesting and a good example of how architecture can make a big difference, in a positive way, to the research environment. [...]
Agriculture and food security in various forms were the main areas of focus during the past week. The agri-food chain (i.e. from farm to fork) contributes about £96Bn to the UK economy and is equivalent to 7% GVA (gross value added). It also provides over 3M jobs.
The UK government recently recognised the importance of the agri-tech sector and published a strategy earlier in the year for the industry. The aim is to ensure that the UK becomes a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability both in the UK and globally. I attended my first meeting of the leadership council for the Agri-Tech Strategy whose chair is Judith Batchelar from Sainsbury’s. It will be important going forward that all the key stakeholders work together, including industry, to drive the strategy forward. BBSRC has been very active in this area in the past and the Diet and Health Research Industry Club has been particularly successful and we will continue to play a very active role. [...]
First of all, I was and am delighted to welcome my successor as CEO of BBSRC in the form of Dr Jackie Hunter, with whom I once served on Council. I shall very much look forward to working with Jackie prior to the ‘handover’ in October.
We had a number of health- and agriculture-related activities, including an RCUK POST reception on the contribution of research to health, one of our regular bilaterals with Defra Chief Scientist Ian Boyd, and a meeting of the ABPI Innovation group to discuss both open data in clinical trials and patient participation in research projects. We also had meetings of the Joint Strategy Group of RCUK Chief Executives with colleagues from BIS, and of the Chairs and Directors of the Institutes to which we provide strategic support. [...]
The week started with the latest meeting of the e-infrastructure leadership Council, co-chaired by Minister of Universities and Science David Willetts, where the main items centred around developing the details of our strategies for e-science. A second and very interesting meeting on infrastructures, organised by the Foundation for Science and Technology, was addressed by Sir John Armitt, Professor Brian Collins, and Tim Yeo MP, each giving some very insightful perspectives on UK large infrastructure needs, how they might better be joined up, and how we need to increase their recognition as a public good that transcends typical parliamentary timescales, and needs a clearer recognition of the extent to which the private sector can provide that.
I appeared with others before the Business, Innovation and Skills Commons Select Committee to discuss Open Access (and note the new RCUK guidelines, also as pdf). These meetings are streamed live, and then made available via the internet; our session starts at about 10-49 into the video that may be viewed here. [...]