Just two months ago plans to establish a few selected Centres for Agricultural Innovation (CAI) were announced, and there has been much activity throughout the summer to take these forward. Potential consortia members have been discussing priorities and developing plans ahead of the deadline for submission of Expressions of Interest on 15 October.
As Chief Scientist of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), I have been keen to ensure that my colleagues are well-connected with other industry partners and research provider organisations as plans for creation of Centres proceed. AHDB is the recipient of a levy from approximately 75% of UK agricultural and horticultural production and processing (cereals, oilseeds, horticultural crops, potatoes, milk, pigs, beef cattle and sheep). This amounts to about £57 million which is supplemented with about £7 million from other sources. Almost 40% of our income (approximately £24 million) is used to enable technical Knowledge Exchange with our levy payers and to fund research projects (often in collaboration with other funders).
AHDB seeks to procure the best research directed to meet our levy-payers’ highest priorities. However, over the years, the depth and breadth of UK expertise, and the contractor base for farmer-focused research, has become severely eroded for most sectors of the industry. Consequently, AHDB is strongly supportive of the Agri-Tech Strategy ambition to re-build and re-focus on industry-relevant scientific expertise, and exploit this for wider commercial benefit throughout the agri-food system. We hope Centres will encourage productive collaboration and synergy among research providers and discourage duplication or unproductive competition that has sometimes been a feature of the recent past. In addition, AHDB applauds the requirement for Centres to play a major part in both industry-relevant skills development and the closely associated process of translating research-findings into practical implementation of farms.
AHDB is looking forward to the chance to support the creation of Centres and will work constructively with those that emerge over the coming months. I envisage they will become a critical part of our national capability for stimulating growth in UK agriculture through the adoption of innovative and sustainable practices, technologies and services.
To find out more about the Centres and the application process, please visit the website.
Ian Crute (Chief Scientist at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board)