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Department of Plant Sciences

The Department's Crop Science Centre has recieved funding to deliver a new doctoral training programme in sustainable agricultural innovation as part of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's Collaborative Training Partnerships scheme. The new four-year postgraduate training programme is designed to train the next generation of agri scientists and will recruit and train 30 PhD students between 2022 and 2028.
The new doctoral training programme has secured £3.6 million in funding as part of the UK government's £22.5 million investment in bioscience research via the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's Collaborative Training Partnerships scheme. This scheme is designed to address skills gaps in the UK bioscience industry through doctoral training led by businesses and is focused on the council's strategic areas of net zero+, tackling infections and transformative technologies.
The new CPT in Sustainable Agricultural Innovation (CPT-SAI) is backed by a consortium of leading UK and international agri-food businesses, research organisations and charitable organisations representing the collective needs of farmers and practitioners. The consortium, led by G's Growers, includes Sainsbury’s, Pepsi Co, Syngenta, Solynta, James Hutton Ltd, Processors and Growers Research Organisation, Cambridge University Potato Growers Research Association, Morley Agricultural Foundation, NIAB and the University of Cambridge' s Crop Science Centre. Emma Garfield, Head of Research Agronomy at G’s Growers remarks “businesses need access to postgraduates with skills in research and innovation in order to adapt to the enormous challenges that climate change, land use change and biodiversity loss pose. We also need to ensure that the supply chain products and processes pass the test of responsible, sustainable innovation that is core to each businesses' value set and corporate social responsibilities.”
The new four-year CTP-SAI, which has been co-developed by the Crop Science Centre, NIAB and the James Hutton Institute, will ensure young scientists are business aware, open up opportunities for careers across the industry and create a pre-competitive network in which businesses can explore and co-design research and innovation programmes. The programme aims to lead the sector by example, recruiting a diverse range of candidates into agriculture and training new thinkers, ready to act in the public and private sector to effect positive global change in the food and farming system. “This integrated programme, the first of its kind, will ensure that regardless of the future career path CTP students choose, they will have a thorough understanding of how businesses work and how, as scientists, to positively engage in bringing science-led solutions to market,” commented G's Growers' Emma Garfield.
The CTP-SAI places science-led innovation at its heart to ensure field-based agriculture is equipped with tools to enable resilient, sustainable and economic crop production whilst meeting consumer demands. The programme will address both short-term bioscience research challenges to facilitate the delivery of solutions within the next decade as well as thinking longer-term about the wider systems changes that will be underpinned by the research that this cohort of students will undertake.
Describing the programme, Dr Richard Harrison, NIAB’s Director of Cambridge Crop Research, remarks “a set of bespoke underpinning training modules have been developed in data science and machine learning, entrepreneurship and systems thinking in a global food security context, which will provide stimulating, thought-provoking skills-based training opportunities in some of the key areas that, regardless of scientific specialism, the leaders of today and tomorrow require.” Adding, “this CTP stretches across the food and farming crop supply chain, bringing together partners to address the joint challenges of reducing emissions, developing resilient farming systems and reversing biodiversity decline. Our vision is to train new thinkers for new times, providing outstanding training to address the challenges of creating and delivering sustainable agricultural systems.”