The Chair of an influential agricultural parliamentary group has highlighted the enormous potential of East Anglia’s agricultural research and life sciences sectors on a visit to the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in Cambridge.
George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid-Norfolk and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, visited NIAB as part of his drive to unlock the east of England’s significant strengths in agricultural research and food science.
Calling for increased collaboration between public and private sector, Mr Freeman highlighted the potential role of a dedicated food and farming Technology and Innovation Centre in providing the leadership and co-ordination needed to take new scientific discoveries through to practical application.
Mr Freeman met with the senior leadership team at NIAB to hear first-hand about work taking place along the length of the research pipeline to help improve the yield, climate resilience and resource use efficiency of our major crops. He also toured the new glasshouse complex, growth room facilities and plant genetics laboratory at the Cambridge site, part of a significant programme of investment and expansion undertaken by NIAB over the past five years to strengthen the Institute’s core activities in plant variety and seed testing, and to extend its crop science capabilities.
Following the visit, Mr Freeman said: “Last month’s Foresight report into food security identified a clear need to support and encourage our agricultural research and food science sectors. Producing more agricultural outputs with fewer inputs is one of the biggest challenges facing us in the 21st Century and, through world-leading independent crop research centres such as NIAB, Britain is well-placed to play a key role in addressing that challenge.
“However, it is clear that much of the research taking place in the UK’s life sciences sector requires closer co-ordination to ensure our rapidly advancing knowledge-base is translated into useful products and practices on the ground. The urgency of the food security challenge, and the long-term nature of the research involved, mean that we need to act now. That’s why I am encouraging those in the industry and research community to explore setting up a specific Technology and Innovation Centre for the food and agricultural sciences in the UK to bring together our leading scientists in collaboration.
“With leadership and collaboration, our farming and food sciences industry can be a major driver of economic growth over the next decade,” said Mr Freeman.