BBSRC invests £60m into Rothamstead for new research

THE Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has announced it is going to fund more than £60m of strategically important research at Rothamsted over the next five years, aiming to tackle society’s greatest challenges.

The projects will centre around the Institute’s core strengths in crop resilience, nutrition and health, food safety and food security, with a focus on more sustainable farming and agriculture.

Chief Executive of Rothamsted Research, Professor Angela Karp, says the funding will significantly enhance the Institute’s capability to deliver its world-leading research. She said “This investment from BBSRC is a real show of confidence in Rothamsted and our ability to provide solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing society.

“In recent years, our world-class bioscience has helped pave the way for high fibre white bread. It’s made soil maps for every field in Africa possible. It’s led to Europe’s first trial of a genome edited wheat that helps tackle cancer. It has helped find ways of reducing emissions associated with livestock grazing, identified environmental trends such as insect declines, and unearthed how and why carbon is so important for healthy soils that can help fight climate change.

“We look forward now to even bigger breakthroughs over the next five years as we prepare for the very great challenges ahead – the global population is growing, its resources are dwindling, and there will be no hiding places from the ravages of climate change.

“So whether it’s breeding drought resistant crops or engineering plants to act as mini factories, our researchers are urgently seeking the solutions that will ensure the world’s food supply for decades to come.”

Food poverty and food security are currently high on the international agenda, and making sure all people and all nations, regardless of wealth, have access to the best quality foods is vital, she added.

“And of course, underpinning all of this is the imperative to grow food in harmony with the world – by tackling pests and diseases without the use of pesticides; to keep yields up without the use of man-made fertilisers; and by recruiting allies – from trees to insects – to help out our farming systems.”

This leading-edge research is part of a £376 million package of funding from BBSRC which will be led by the specialist institutes it supports in the UK.

The investment comes following a major review of the institute research programmes BBSRC funds – and is carried out every five years.

Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair at BBSRC, said “BBSRC’s strategically supported institutes are a vital component of the national and international bioscience research and innovation ecosystem. As experts in their fields, these world-class research institutes provide the UK with the capability and connectivity needed to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the bioscience revolution.

“Bioscience shapes our lives in so many different ways and as the UK’s major public funder of bioscience research and innovation, it is mission critical that BBSRC invests in world-class science that delivers benefits to society as a whole while driving economic growth and prosperity across the UK and beyond.”

The £60.8m of total funding awarded to Rothamsted will be split across five strategic programmes: Growing Health; Resilient Farming Futures; Green Engineering; Designing Sustainable Wheat (led by the John Innes Centre) and AgZero+ (led by CEH and jointly funded by NERC).

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