Consumers conscious of eating healthy and sustainable food will benefit from new Government funding into research announced today (Thursday 24 October).

The announcement of £170 million of funding, awarded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and UK Research and Innovation, will provide for 1,700 PhD researchers over 5 years at academic institutions all over the country under the third phase of BBSRC’s Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP).

The University of Reading was named among twelve institutions that will lead a DTP across the country, and will bring together a consortium of six university partners including Cranfield University, the University of Surrey, Queen’s University Belfast, Aberystwyth University, and Brunel University London. The partnership also includes EIT Food, the British Nutrition Foundation, the Science and Technology Facilities Council Food Network+, and Diamond Light Source as Associate Partners.

Professor Lisa Methven from the University of Reading, who will lead the FoodBioSystems Doctoral Training Partnership, said: "The world faces unprecedented challenges in relation to our food supply. With more than 7 billion mouths to feed coupled with the threat of climate change and the rise in diet-related diseases, this new DTP will enable academic progress to flourish, to face these challenges head on and innovate across the agrifood sector.” 

We are delighted to be able to lead this partnership which will train doctoral researchers to take a multidisciplinary approach to challenges within food systems, whilst enabling them to carry out world leading research in the agrifood sector. They will move UK research beyond farm to fork to enrich our understanding of the roots of a healthy and sustainable food supply for everyone."

This consortium brings together an unrivalled partnership in terms of its breadth and depth of research excellence, along with novel training environments, in relation to agrifood systems. It draws on a wealth of expertise from across the partners in delivering successful doctoral training programmes.

The DTP is aptly named FoodBioSystems and will draw in expertise and training opportunities from a wealth of affiliate partners across agriculture, food manufacture, food retail, government and non-government organisations.”

The FoodBioSystems partnership will develop the next generation of bioscientists with in-depth knowledge and technical expertise of food systems and biological processes across the agrifood system from pre-farm to post-fork. Our doctoral researchers and graduates will become the urgently needed experts able to transform the food value chain and address challenges of sustainability, efficacy, authenticity and safety in food production systems whilst delivering better nutrition and concomitant health benefits for society.

Co-Director, Professor Leon Terry from Cranfield University said: “The UK agrifood industry has a fundamental skills gap. This new and much needed FoodBioSystems DTP will provide the next generation of scientists and ideas for the future."

Announcing the award, Professor Melanie Welham, UKRI-BBSRC’s Executive Chair said: "The success of the UK’s science sector and the consequent benefits to society and the economy relies on great researchers doing great work. Our Doctoral Training Partnerships have already supported the training of hundreds of early career scientists working at the cutting edge of biology and biotechnology. By continuing to fund, through this significant £170 million investment, vital training of the next generation of researchers we will help ensure that the UK consolidates its position as world-leader in this crucial sector.”

UKRI-BBSRC DTPs provide PhD training in areas of bioscience relevant to the remit and strategic research priority areas of BBSRC. They also provide a breadth of professional development training opportunities to enhance the capabilities of doctoral candidates and develop a world-class, highly skilled workforce the UK needs for its future.

The UKRI-BBSRC DTP scheme is just one element of UKRI’s commitment to support future talent in research and innovation. UKRI as a whole supports around 15,000 doctoral students in UK universities, research institutes and businesses. As part of the National Productivity Investment Fund, a further 1300 students were supported in industrially-relevant research topics, and in projects utilising artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data. 

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.