Food security is at the heart of a new doctoral training collaboration between the University of Warwick and Waitrose, thanks to an award from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Warwick will work with Waitrose and their suppliers, to provide PhD students with a unique combination of academic development and industry training in the field of agriculture and sustainable crop production.
The partnership – part of a £18.9M Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTP) award – will allow early-career scientists to acquire business skills, marrying their technical expertise with experience of solving real-world problems in the fresh produce industry.
This will not only give the PhD students more employment opportunities in an increasingly competitive job market, but will ensure that they effect change with their academic knowledge, and contribute to ensuring future global food security.
With global population rise expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, the UK Agri-Tech strategy calls for new methods, systems and technologies to be adopted to help UK agriculture increase production in a sustainable manner.
The PhD projects that the students undertake will be in the areas of sustainable crop production, sustainable soil and water, and biodiversity and ecosystem services in agriculture. Projects will make full use of the extensive facilities at the University's Innovation Campus at Wellesbourne, which has 190 ha of research land and state-of-the art laboratories for academia and business to work alongside each other.
The collaboration also includes Lancaster University, the University of Reading, and Rothamsted Research.
Dr Rosemary Collier, the director of Warwick's Crop Centre in the School of Life Sciences, comments:
"This exciting new programme is an excellent opportunity for us all to work collaboratively with the Waitrose Agronomy Group and Waitrose suppliers in developing a cohort of graduate students who will make a difference to the fresh produce supply chain through their PhD research and who are capable of becoming future leaders in science, policy and business."
Alan Wilson, the Technical Manager for Agronomy at Waitrose, comments:
"Waitrose is delighted to have been appointed a lead organisation for BBSRC's 2016 industry-led collaborative training partnerships programme. This is a really exciting development and supports our proven collaborative approach led by the Waitrose Agronomy Group, involving academic engagement, worldwide farm assessment and a postgraduate professional training programme.
"Our evidence shows that there is a clear need to provide new thinking to address the challenges involved in delivering a more secure and sustainable food system. This funding will accelerate the contribution that Lancaster, Reading and Warwick Universities can make along with Rothamsted Research, working with our supply base to enhance resilience and sustainability in our food supply chains."
The first students will be recruited to the programme in October 2017 and the progress of their research will be reported at the Waitrose Science Days held at the University of Warwick each February.
Notes to Editors
'Food' is one of the University of Warwick's Global Research Priorities.
Warwick's School of Life Sciences was ranked 2nd in the UK for Agriculture, Food and Veterinary research in the Government's 2014 Research Excellence Framework.
25 scientists undertake research within the theme of 'Plant and Crop Science' and the School has been awarded the Elizabeth Creak Chair in Food Security.
The University of Warwick Crop Centre is internationally recognised for strategic and applied research in sustainable agriculture, horticulture and food security.