Training the next generation of applied bioscientists

11 Aug 2023
CTP-SAI Students at their 2023 Summer Conference

The Collaborative Training Partnership for Sustainable Agricultural Innovation (CTP-SAI) is a £3.6 million six-year PhD programme that began in October 2022, tasked with training the next generation of crop scientists. CTP-SAI Programme Manager NIAB’s Dr Fiona Leigh explains just what the CTP-SAI is, why it’s important and what the current cohort of students are up to…

The CTP-SAI aims to tackle some of the biggest challenges in broad-acre agriculture through a collaborative training partnership, working with some of the industry’s leading agribusinesses, charities, research organisations and universities. It is funded both by UKRI BBSRC and the industry partners within the consortium.

As the programme was being developed, a very clear message from the industry consortium was the need for skilled post-doctoral scientists that had a wider understanding of how businesses operate.

In response the consortium has partnered with Management Development Services (MDS), which runs one of the leading graduate placement programmes in the agri-food sector. MDS is providing training in key business readiness skills and will be coordinating high quality placements with our industry partners.

The CTP-SAI partner logos

The CTP-SAI is unique in that all the PhD projects are built collaboratively; each studentship is developed with an industry, academic and institute partner to ensure that key questions can be answered in a range of crops that are relevant to each part of the field to fork supply chain.

The collaborative design process has created a very diverse suite of projects.

We welcomed our first intake of eight PhD students in October 2022, and their projects covered crops including lettuce, beans, wheat and potato, with research topics ranging from ‘The use of virus induced gene editing in potato to dissect plant microbe interactions’, to ‘The application of satellite remote sensing and machine learning for modelling impacts of regenerative farming practices’.

The CTP-SAI consortium

The second cohort of students will start their PhDs in October 2023, with a varied portfolio of crops and research questions in their PhDs.

Project design for the third, and final, intake of PhD students is now underway for students who will take up their PhD places in October 2024. We will start recruiting for these projects this autumn – watch this space!

The CTP-SAI is an exciting and rewarding programme, and it is a privilege to support the next generation of plant scientists as they start their careers in applied research.

For more info on the CTP-SAI see the website

A version of this blog post originally appeared in NIAB’s Landmark magazine in Spring 2023. Landmark features in-depth technical articles on all aspects of NIAB crop research, comment and advice. You can sign up for free and get Landmark delivered to your door or inbox:

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