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Industry specialists to be trained in advanced food security skills under new scheme


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has awarded funding for four major new training programmes for industry specialists working in vital niche areas within the agri-food sector, it is announced today (23 May 2011).

The BBSRC Advanced Training Partnerships will provide postgraduate level professional development in the area of agriculture and food production for a large number of industry specialists across the UK. Scientific and technical staff working in the UKs agri-food sectors will be supported to develop the skills necessary to ensure the UK continues to make significant contributions towards national and global food security.

Around 100 individuals will undertake Professional Doctorates under these schemes and several thousand Masters Level CPD modules will be undertaken, with many students building up to a full Master qualification.

The four partnerships have been awarded a total of 12M and bring together companies with research and training organisations. Each one will operate under the leadership of an academic institution. Partnerships will develop and deliver specialist training programmes for postgraduate degrees, as well as continuing professional development courses. Each programme will focus on a particular research area, and the four are complementary, covering the full range of food production from soil to plate.

The training will be delivered flexibly to ensure that specialist staff from a widest range of companies can benefit. This will include distance learning, short-courses, work-based training, research placements and secondments. Training modules can be built into full Masters degrees, and Partnerships will also be developing Professional Doctorates in agricultural and food sciences.

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said We established this innovative scheme in response to a clear need to help the agri-food sector engage with cutting edge of research related to food security. I am pleased to note that we have funded partnerships across the full range of agri-food research areas. This will help to meet the challenge of future food security by strengthening the UK industry skills base in areas such as veterinary science, animal welfare, soil science, plant breeding, crop science and food manufacturing.

The four partnerships are as follows (see notes for more detailed information):

Sustainable and Efficient Food Production

Led by the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Science (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, with Bangor University, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, and a number of industrial partners.

This training partnership will look to address the high-level skills needs of pasture based agriculture in the UK, focusing on increasing efficiency and reducing environmental impact of extensive beef, sheep and dairy farming.

Establishment of a strategic training hub for the advancement of the UK agri-food industry

Led by the University of Nottingham with Harper Adams University College, Cranfield University, Rothamsted Research, and a number of industrial partners.

This programme has been designed in response to feedback from industry about training needs and will be flexible and responsive, spanning the entire agri-food chain, including soils, water, crops, animals, post-harvest, food and nutrition. The aim is to provide participants with lifelong membership of a vibrant community of colleagues in industry and academia, enabling them to obtain a wide range of technical and contextual skills that can be deployed for maximum impact across the chain.

Food Quality and Health Sustaining the Future

Led by the University of Reading with Rothamsted Research, University of Birmingham, Leatherhead Food Research, and a number of other industrial partners.

This partnership brings together experts working on the food chain from production to consumption, from academia and industry, focused on delivering high quality and real-world relevant training for the food and production industries.

Advanced Training in Intensive Livestock Health and Production

Led by the Royal Veterinary College with University of Cambridge, University of Newcastle, University of Edinburgh and a number of industrial partners.

This consortium will focus on the pig and poultry industry, to provide specialist training to veterinarians as well as other animal scientists working in this sector.

Richard Longthorp, chair of the AgriSkills Forum said These new training schemes are very welcome. Over the next ten years we need 60,000 new people across the skills pyramid which exists within the agriculture and horticulture sectors. At the highest skill level, there is a significant number of people who require the specialist research and scientific expertise needed to drive forward productivity and sustainability of food production in the UK. This scheme will provide a vital mechanism to develop those skills within the sector.

Dr Helen Ferrier, Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Adviser, NFU said “This is a great opportunity for the farming industry in the UK. We need all the advisers and technicians involved in agriculture and horticulture to be able to engage with cutting edge science, and these training programmes will support them to do so. It’s also good to see the spread of skills that will be covered across BBSRC’s Advanced Training Partnerships. It is vital that the UK retains the best people and enhances their skills in agronomy, soil management, animal welfare, and many other areas highly relevant to efficient, productive farming.

Claire Hughes, Head of Health, Nutrition and Science at Marks & Spencer, said “Skills in farming are obviously vital for the future of food, but we’re very glad that this scheme includes opportunities for training across the food industry – from field to fork. To ensure future food security we are not only challenged to produce enough food but we also need to know how to process it well to minimise waste and maximise nutritional value. With the right mix of skills in the UK we can ensure that the food that reaches the consumer is of the best possible quality for the minimum of inputs of energy, land and other resources.”

IBERS University of Aberystwyth ATP

This partnership is a vehicle for research-led training focused on responding to the needs of Pasture-Based Agriculture in the UK. The extensive pasture sector is both large and diverse; and this provides challenges in introducing innovation. The flow of technical information to extensive farms is largely the province of farm managers, agricultural suppliers technical teams, vets, advisors for environmental schemes and supply chains attached to large retailers. It is therefore these bodies that largely comprise our target audience.

Our ATP will provide training in four interlocking themes, which cover the breadth of identified needs in this sector and correspond to the pooled expertise of the partners:

Sustainable Beef, Sheep and Dairy
Forage and Feed
Optimising Land use; and
Complementary and Wider Issues

Training will be delivered via a blend of workshops and e-learning and will allow users to access accredited post-graduate level CPD training which can if desired by used to build towards postgraduate diplomas, MSc’s and professional doctorates.

For more information: Dawn Havard, Tel: 01970 628440, Mob: 07779 645598, email:

University of Nottingham ATP

The training on offer is aimed at individuals employed throughout the agri-food sector. While the training is at postgraduate level, where candidates do not have formal academic qualifications, we have developed guidelines for recognition of industrial experience and prior learning in meeting entry standards. The wide-ranging nature and structure of our partnership will enable participants to select training across the entire agri-food chain, allowing them to tailor the training to their requirements. For example, a person working in fresh produce might wish to select modules in crop production alongside food quality and supply chain management while an individual working in animal nutrition might wish to select modules in genetics, animal physiology and molecular nutrition.

The training will range from Continuing Professional Development (CPD) options such as one-day workshops through to formal qualifications (Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, MSc, MRes and Doctorate). The training will be sufficiently flexible to allow participants to bank credits from CPD training so that progression to a formal qualification can be made at a later stage, if required. Training will be offered as one day courses, intensive blocks of teaching, work-based modules and e-learning. Where appropriate, research projects will be based in industry with joint supervision from the employer and an academic partner. Placements in industry and academia will be offered which may be stand alone or research training placements for those undertaking MSc or Doctoral studies.

All those registering for training will become members of the ATP community, and their involvement will extend beyond their immediate period of training, leading to a continually growing group of well-connected alumni. As part of the development of the ATP community, a well-publicised annual congress, hosted on a rotational basis by the ATP partners, will comprise a range of activities including speakers from industry and academia, debates and thesis presentations, and will be linked with existing training events, such as those organised by the levy bodies. We will also develop a web-based community to facilitate communication between members.

University of Reading ATP

Our partnership aims to ensure the industry employs and is led by individuals with a comprehensive understanding of the complex issues of food security that face the whole food chain.

Our ATP brings together more than 20 foremost industry partners who will work with the University of Reading to develop the skills needed to support the production of quality food from farm to fork. Reading will be working with the University of Birmingham, Leatherhead Food Research and Rothamsted Research to deliver a flexible programme of teaching and training.

Training modules will be developed that can be taken as standalone CPD courses and, if desired, progressively built towards Postgraduate Certificates/Diplomas or Masters. In each case the training will be designed to accelerate the development of early to mid-career professionals and support the industry in developing its skills base.

A key aspect of the scheme is the Professional Doctorate, an innovative ‘science in business’ research degree for the food and production industries that brings together modular taught components with a portfolio of industry research and professional practice. This new approach to flexible and collaborative training will ensure that the expertise and research excellence is best applied to the needs of participants and will encourage knowledge exchange across the food chain.

More information: Rona Cheeseman, Reading press office, Tel: 0118 378 7388, email:

Royal Veterinary College ATP

This partnership will address, with industry, high-level skills gaps in the agri-food sector. The programme will focus on training and research relating to intensively kept livestock (initially pigs and poultry) in areas such as animal health and welfare, reducing the environmental footprint, economics and the supporting biosciences.

The educational provision will be tailored to meet the specific needs of industry partners, and will embrace the whole animal and food production team, including business managers, food and animal scientists, and veterinarians. Research will also be industry-led with the aim of applying the research strengths of the four universities and their agency partners to the problems and challenges of the production of food of animal origin in the 21st century.

Training will be by blended and distance learning through workshops and on-line course modules, across the full range of relevant disciplines. Flexible design will allow the delivery of short-course CPD, Certificates, Diplomas and Masters programmes, and, if appropriate, the linking of taught and industry-based practice and research components into professional doctorates.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences and the largest single public funder of agriculture and food-related research.

Sponsored by Government, in 2010/11 BBSRC is investing around 470 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Studies (Aberystwyth University), Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre, The Genome Analysis Centre, The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) and Rothamsted Research.

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

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