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Durham Centre for Crop Improvement Technology

N8 Agri-Food Resilience Programme: Durham contribution to Agritechnology

Guaranteeing sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a growing, increasingly affluent population is a significant long-term global challenge, beyond the capabilities of any single research group or university. The breadth of the challenge requires an integrated, large-scale, multi-disciplinary research effort. This is the ambition of the N8 universities, underpinned by a unique seven-year track record across the partnership in delivering collaborative programmes in research, equipment sharing and industry engagement.

The N8 Agri-Food Resilience Programme directly addresses three elements of the Catalyst Fund theme of Research: Building excellent and sustainable capacity to tackle new fields of enquiry, maximising economic and social benefits from established research units, improving research efficiency through the shared use of major equipment and infrastructure, and other research outputs.

The 5 year Agrifood Resilience Programme funded partly by HEFC (£8M) and the N8 Universities (£8M) will tackle the challenge of global food security through three interconnected multidisciplinary research themes;

1. Sustainable Food Production

Precision agriculture, soil regeneration, resilient and productive crops and livestock, novel diagnostics, predictive modelling, including environmental impact assessment, and 'omics' to promote resilient, sustainable food production.

2. Resilient Food Supply Chains:

Adapting food supply systems to deliver increased resilience and nutrition, while improving public health, reducing environmental impacts and enhancing sustainability.

3. Improved Nutrition and Consumer Behaviours

Lowering the burden of food production and distribution on the natural environment through changes in behaviour, diet and other socio-economic factors.

No single university has the necessary capacity and capability to be considered as a leader in all aspects of food security; however each N8 partner has significant ‘national- and international-grade strengths’ in this field of research. The N8 Agri-Food Resilience Programme will deliver significant added value by building on the complementarities of these assets, bringing together the N8 universities to develop expertise and create a collaboration of global significance.

N8 AgriFood Resilience: Vision

• By 2020, to have created a distinct programme of fundamental and translational research into Agri-food resilience, with greater scientific, social, environmental, economic and political impact than the component programmes at the eight member universities

• By 2025, to be recognized as world-leading, with significantly greater funding and impact, hosting a significant international conference biennially

Durham University’s recognised expertise in basic crop and plant science (as established by the Witty report) underpins the Sustainable Food production theme of the N8 Agri-Food resilience programme. The project will fund the appointment of a Chair in Plant Molecular Sciences and a Knowledge Exchange (KE) fellow in Plant genomics. This will build on existing capacity and capability through the development of new integrated research programmes and further establishes Durham as a major contributor to Agritechnology. Each new appointment will work in close partnership with at least one N8 institution plus an industrial collaborator within the remit and framework of the Agri-Food resilience programme to deliver Agritech solution for industry underpinned by excellent science.

The Durham Centre for Crop Improvement Technology (DCCIT) directs Durham University's research strength in Agritechnology towards major challenges, especially food security and industrial plant-biotechnology. Currently the Director of DCCIT is the appointed N8 chair of Plant Molecular Sciences. The KE fellow will work closely with the director and DCCIT membership, which spans across the schools of Biology, Physics and Chemistry and Mathematics. All members of DCCIT have multiple links with industry in the Agritechnology and food security sectors plus collaborators in other N8 institutions. The N8 Agri-resilience programme will allow Durham to drawn upon multidisciplinary expertise across the N8 in formulating teams to make competitive bids for external funding from Research councils, Innovate UK as well as Industry.

Funding Opportunities in the N8 AgriFood Programme: Pump Priming information here.

For further information please contact;

Professor Ari Sadanandom,

DCCIT website