Reported by Patrick O'Hare, ESRC-Funded CSaP Policy Intern (February 2016 - May 2016)
A CSaP Policy Workshop, chaired by David Willetts brought together senior researchers, policy makers, and agricultural sector representatives, to discuss the way forward for innovation in agriculture.
The workshop was led by Professor Ottoline Leyser, Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU), and orgainsed in partnership with the CEO of NIAB, Tina Barsby, and the Director of Agri-tech East, Dr Belinda Clarke.
“A single silver bullet doesn’t exist to help solve the numerous challenges facing the global agriculture and horticulture industries."
The purpose of the workshop, which took place on 13 May, was to explore the opportunities and challenges of delivering on the aims of the agricultural technologies strategy for the UK to become “a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability; exploit opportunities to develop and adopt new and existing technologies, products and services to increase productivity; and contribute to global food security and international development.” The workshop was particularly timely in the context of developing plans for the new Cambridge Centre for Crop Science (3CS), a collaboration between NIAB and the University of Cambridge.
“We know a single silver bullet doesn’t exist to help solve the numerous challenges facing the global agriculture and horticulture industries", said Belinda Clarke.
She went on to add: "However by bringing together innovations and expertise from different disciplines, new insights, approaches and solutions to those challenges now become feasible. We collectively have an unprecedented opportunity to catalyse those new partnerships.”
The workshop focused on the relationship between agriculture and science; the potential for mapping value creation in the agricultural supply chain; and the different funding mechanisms available for joint ventures. It identified some of the challenges of multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder collaboration, and suggested some future directions for agri-tech and 3CS.
"The workshop was a great event representing a serious commitment to collaborate."
The need for two-way communication and translation between scientists and agriculturalists 'at the coalface' was emphasised, with a parituclar need to focus on a problem in agricultural practice. "Things only start getting interesting when you begin looking at real world problems rather than approaching innovation horizontally", commented David Willetts.
"The workshop was a great event which, in addition to being a valuable and enlightening discussion, also represented a serious commitment to collaboration both between academic disciplines but also, crucially, involving the various different institutions and businesses represented around the table." Tom Green, Chief Executive, Spearhead
"We are on the brink of getting some really good projects off the ground."
The workshop concluded with an enthusiastic commitment to define flagship projects that would act as catalysts for interdisciplinary intervention and make a real difference for farmers.
"We are on the brink of getting some really good projects off the ground – we need those breakthroughs and we need to celebrate them." Philip Guildford, Director of Research, Cambridge University Department of Engineering
(Banner image courtesy of Gary Houston via WikiCommons)
13 May 2016, 4pm
What are the big opportunities to deliver on the aims of the agri-tech strategy? This policy workshop seeks to explore this question in the context of the rapidly developing plans for the new Cambridge Centre for Crop Science (3CS), a collaboration between NIAB and the University of Cambridge that will enhance research in crop sciences, promote knowledge exchange and develop resilience in food security.