UK agrifood research programme launched

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Lamberts: N8 AgriFood will explore solutions to food security, agritech and consumer health issues across the supply chain
Lamberts: N8 AgriFood will explore solutions to food security, agritech and consumer health issues across the supply chain

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The global challenges of ensuring sustainable, resilient and healthy food supplies for all is the focus of the international launch of the N8 AgriFood programme today (June 21).

N8 AgriFood is designed to provide a catalyst for practical collaboration between industry, academia, farmers, government and researchers, and is being formally launched at a two-day summit starting today in Manchester.

More than 50 speakers, from the likes of Sainsbury, PepsiCo, Nestlé, The Co-operative Group, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), HSBC and the National Farmers Union are attending the event.

At the event, delegates will explore the need for a sustainable food system to meet current and future needs, particularly in light of population growth and climate change impacts.

Keynote speakers include Professor Ian Noble, senior research and development director at PepsiCo; Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser at DEFRA; Professor Tim Benton, UK champion for global food security; Keith Gill, food industry pioneer and founder of Phileas Fogg crisps and Dr Emma Hennessey, head of the science and innovation team at the Foreign Office.

Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice chancellor and president of the University of Manchester and co-chair of the Council for Science and Technology will also be speaking.

Resilience in the supply chain

During the two days, delegates will explore critical issues, such as building resilience in the supply chain, closing the skills gap, antibiotic resistance and integrated food and nutrition approaches through a targeted agenda.

Attendees will also hear about how to obtain direct access to funders, new partners in industry and academia. They will also take part in a series of interactive workshops addressing issues surrounding sustainable food production, supply chains and improved consumption and health.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to explore new projects and solutions to the main food security, agritech and consumer health issues across the supply chain,” ​said Professor Koen Lamberts, vice-chancellor and president of the University of York and chair of the N8 Research Partnership.

“The N8 AgriFood launch will examine the big issues of the day and provide potential solutions.”

Professor Katherine Denby, academic director of N8 AgriFood added: “The breadth and depth of agri-food research across the N8 partnership means we can bring different research skills and expertise together to achieve new outcomes.

“The N8 partnership is a real step-change in how universities work together, greatly expanding what a single university can achieve. Pooling resources, including multiple university farms, as well as complementary expertise gives us a competitive research base that can meet the varied challenges of sustainable, resilient and healthy food supply.”

Single forum for industry

N8 AgriFood provides a single forum for industry to access academic research across eight northern universities – Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, and York, which will lead the programme. A team of ‘knowledge exchange’ fellows will drive the formation of productive partnerships across the public and private sector.

The N8 members have some 370 researchers involved in agri-food resilience, a portfolio of £269M of agri-food research funding and the greatest concentration of academics engaged in agri-food research in the UK.

Their expertise covers soil health, plant biology, crop improvement, bio-energy, weed, pest and disease management, livestock health and well-being, human and animal nutrition, consumer behaviour and diet, globalisation, supply chains and waste and resource management.

It is a £16M, five-year multi-disciplinary programme and involves the establishment of 10 new professorial appointments across the N8 universities, eight new business-facing knowledge exchange fellows working across the universities and a series of Industry Innovation Forums.

For more information about the event please visit N8-agrifood-launch-2016.

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