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Gloucestershire Business News

Agricultural universities team up on research plan

A new agricultural research partnership will be launched at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) in Cirencester today (January 27).

The new initiative will be announced by George Eustice MP, Defra secretary of state.

Sixteen universities which offer courses in agriculture and carry out agricultural research are getting together to agree on joint agricultural research priorities, working with farmers and others who have a stake in the industry's future.

Together they form the Agricultural Universities Council (AUC), which will engage with all four governments in the UK in its ongoing work.

With farming in the UK going through a rapid transition, the initiative responds to calls for more joined-up research and to ensure public investment in agricultural innovation makes a difference on the ground.

The council's first project will be to map existing agricultural research capacity across the UK for the first time in a decade, and work with farmers, as well as environmental, welfare and community groups, food businesses and other stakeholders, to shape future research priorities.

Professor Rob Edwards, head of the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Newcastle University, who chairs the AUC, said: "We already have a wealth of expertise and facilities for agricultural education and research across the UK, but we can make even more of it, with more benefit for farming and the public, if we coordinate our efforts.

"That's why this group of universities has decided to work together as the Agricultural Universities Council. Universities, like all sectors, are faced with a whole range of competing demands and pressures and I've been heartened by the huge goodwill and commitment our members have brought to working together."

The AUC's work to agree joint research priorities is being supported by the Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture (CEIA).

Professor Tom MacMillan, from the RAU and CEIA, said: "Farmers, industry, and public interest groups have longstanding concerns about the impact of publicly-funded research. Some of this frustration is shared by scientists, particularly when they find themselves competing for research grants, when it would make more sense to collaborate.

"At this hugely challenging time for farming, it is really refreshing that so many leading research institutions are teaming up to help address this."

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