Agricultural universities unite to address sector challenges

A group of sheep on a farm.

For the first time, agricultural universities across the UK hope to address sector challenges and further the impact of their work with a new joint research strategy launched this week. 

The new strategy comes following a year-long investigation by the AUC (Agricultural Universities Council) into industry and policy priorities, current research activities and the sector's strengths and weaknesses.

It outlines how the group of universities are working together to address the challenges that are currently faced within the agriculture sector. 

You can read the report at: Agricultural Universities Council: Research Strategy 2023

Following the launch of the report, NFU President Minette Batters said: “As bedrock of the food system, farmers and growers feel a great responsibility to be part of the solution.

“We see science and research playing a vital role in this: Providing on-farm decision makers with robust evidence of what works; informing and analysing regulation; and ensuring that change leads to genuine and sustainable benefits for all.

“I’m very pleased that the leading universities also recognise their responsibilities and the opportunities to increase their value to farming through a coordinated research strategy.”

Increased representation, research and training

Guided by the results of their research, the AUC hope to take a number of collective steps together to address the challenges faced by the agriculture industry. These include: 

  • More open research reporting between universities
  • Better sector representation within UK universities
  • Increased co-ordination and knowledge exchange
  • Assessing the current state of research farms and identify where strategic investment is needed
  • Bring together researchers at a new sector-wide conference
  • Identify approaches to developing secure and impactful research career pathways across universities in the AUC.

A step forward towards more impactful research

An independent advisory group chaired by Prof Charles Godfray provided guidance that shaped the AUC's new strategy. This included NFU Chief Adviser of Science & Regulatory Affairs Dr. Helen Ferrier, who said: “I was honoured to be part of this strategic initiative and to represent farmers and growers in the process.

“There are complex and intractable issues in the research and knowledge exchange landscape that many of us have been grappling with for decades, and that have shifted over time, but I think this collaborative AUC strategy signals a significant step forward.

“The new strategy has the potential to lead to the more impactful and relevant research and development and the more coordinated knowledge exchange that farming needs to meet its future challenges. 

“I urge research funders to work with the AUC and the whole community to support the delivery of the strategy, and to incentivise and drive the actions needed to sustain long term impact.”

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