Farmers will have a bigger role in agricultural research and development thanks to a new academic centre supported by the UK’s top agricultural universities, including the Royal Agricultural University, Harper Adams and Reading.
The Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture (CEIA) will see five of the most prestigious agricultural universities in the UK work together to address the gap between scientific research on innovation and real-life farming experience. The centre will focus on how research and development investment can best support innovation to be adopted by farmers.
With £1.5 million of charitable funding, including from the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust and from each University, the virtual centre will be run by experts in agricultural innovation research from the University of Reading, Royal Agricultural University (RAU), Harper Adams University, Newcastle University and the University of Warwick.
Dr David Rose, Elizabeth Creak Associate Professor of Agricultural Innovation and Extension at the University of Reading said:
“Farming needs to change fast to meet the challenges of our time, including tackling climate change, loss of biodiversity and food-related illness, and ensuring resilient and secure food supply chains.
“Although UK public spending on agri-tech R&D is consistently above £300 million per annum, the adoption of research-led innovation is patchy. Crucially, there is currently no dedicated initiative to target research funding where it will be most relevant on the ground.”
Prof Tom MacMillan, Elizabeth Creak Chair in Rural Policy and Strategy at the RAU said: “Farmers innovate under their own steam on everything from blackgrass control to mob grazing, often with scant support. The UK’s main research funders are cottoning onto this, with Defra this week confirming its plans to invest in farmer-led innovation.
“This is great news but as farmers know all too well the devil will be in the detail – whether the funds are easy to access and exactly what they’ll cover. This unique new centre pulls together expertise and experience from across the UK and around the world to help target research funds effectively.”
Paul May, Chair of the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust, said: “As a charity dedicated to the future of farming, we meet some very dynamic farmers and researchers, who share a commitment to improving our industry’s productivity, sustainability and resilience. But what has struck us is how hard it can be to marry their efforts – there is government and commercial money for research but it is not necessarily targeted at where farmers will use and benefit from it.
“There is a growing movement of independent farmer-led innovation networks that tries to plug this gap. Rather than simply chip in ourselves to help these in a small way, we want to turn the tide by helping research funders and investors support such efforts on a large scale.”