Vacancy Information

Senior Group Leader /Head of Department Posts


Location: Cambridgeshire
Closing date: 30 Sep 2020
Reference number: SV/A1251

Job details

We are seeking experienced research leaders to provide outstanding scientific leadership, delivering innovative and internationally competitive research programmes to underpin NIAB’s leading position in translational crop research. NIAB strives to deliver the crop science solutions required for highly productive, but sustainable agriculture and horticulture. NIAB offers unique opportunities to carry out excellent research, field and farm-scale experiments and to innovate in the shaping and delivery of services at the interface with industry. 

The Crop Science Centre, NIAB’s alliance with the University of Cambridge, ( places NIAB at the heart of future impact-oriented international research and development and is part of a £25 million redevelopment of NIAB’s Cambridge estate.  

Headquartered in Cambridge, with a major site at East Malling, Kent and at key strategic locations across the UK, NIAB has unique capabilities and expertise, delivering both high quality research and an array of statutory and sought-after services to public and private stakeholders.

Alongside the redevelopment of the NIAB Headquarters at Cambridge, the recently awarded Strength in Places Fund will provide state-of-the-art horticultural research and plant growth facilities at the East Malling Campus, NIAB EMR.

NIAB has an excellent track record of strategic research in genetics and pre-breeding of arable crops, providing key resources for cereals (especially wheat) and protein crops (Vicia faba). Similarly, our strengths in farming systems, applied pathology, potato agronomy and horticulture research help the UK industry remain productive and resilient.

Our services include statutory DUS testing supporting Plant Breeders Rights, seed certification and testing, delivery of recommended and national list trials as well as a range of contract research, trials and other services to the agri-food sector. Applicants wishing to drive science-based innovation and impact in these areas alongside their research programme are especially welcome.

Research Areas

NIAB has an ambitious five year plan for growth; in delivering this we are seeking to appoint experienced research leaders in the following areas:

a. Integrated pest and disease management.  Expertise in biocontrol, plant-insect interactions and microbiome engineering of arable and combinable crops are all key areas of interest, as are candidates with expertise in potato pathology (Cambridge) and horticulture (East Malling).
b. Quantitative and statistical genetics is of key importance at NIAB Cambridge, with our unique pre-breeding genetic resources in cereals and legumes (e.g. synthetic wheat and MAGIC populations), as well as our wealth of field derived data. We wish to work to integrate resilience traits into crops, to aid in the deployment of sustainable cropping systems. Candidates with expertise in statistical genetics (e.g. genomic prediction) and genotype x environment interactions are especially welcome.
c. Crop Modelling, developing capacity to simulate crop development, biotic/abiotic interactions, properties of cropping systems and linkage to wider model frameworks (e.g. weather/climate, carbon cycling, soil nutrition, water use). Applications from those with expertise in FSPM plant modelling and linkage to genetic variation would be especially welcome at both our Cambridge and East Malling sites
d. Informatics and data science are integral to crop science and we wish to grow capability in these areas, ensuring the correct analysis tools and approaches to ensure interoperable data in research relevant to crop improvement (e.g. pangenomics, modelling, phenotyping) and statutory systems (e.g. distributed ledgers) – (Cambridge and East Malling).  
e. Crop Biotechnology NIAB is renowned for its crop transformation capabilities and wish to further its research capability in this and aligned areas, using biotechnology to accelerate crop improvement in Cambridge and the aligned use of plants for high-value products.
f. Climate and sustainability- linking genetic innovation to farming system innovation is critical. We welcome applications from researchers in the areas of climate modelling and lifecycle assessment to understand food production and food security, the treatment of uncertainty and managing risk, and the development of climate-resilient pathways and adaptation (Cambridge and East Malling)
g. Crop resource use- identifying areas for improvements in crop canopy architecture and radiation use efficiency, nutrient and water uptake.  Candidates with expertise in potato would be of particular interest at our Cambridge site, as part of the CUF team.

• Be involved at a senior level in positioning and strategically developing NIAB’s research capacity and capability for the next 10-20 years, consolidating NIAB’s position as one of the premier translational institutions in agriculture worldwide.
• Plan, resource, and deliver internationally competitive research, alone and in collaboration with others, as Principal Investigator
• Lead a group or research area and secure funding from appropriate sources (e.g. BBSRC, Innovate UK, NERC, EU Horizon 2020, Global Challenges Research Fund. AHDB and commercial sources).
• Regularly publish impactful science in peer reviewed papers
• Encourage innovation and application of science across NIAB
• Identify and encourage outstanding researchers to join NIAB and to train and mentor promising young scientists through our tenure track programme
Group Leaders and Senior Group leaders are expected to secure and manage portfolios of research funding (the value of which is dependent upon grade) and be highly visible members of their research fields. In addition to this, Heads of Department are key members of NIAB senior management. They are expected to be a highly visible, trusted and approachable member of the senior management team, making linkages across the organisation in order to exploit research and funding opportunities. The Head of Department contributes to the achievement of the Business Unit Strategic Plan by providing effective management and leadership supporting the unit director, and the NIAB executive and CEO.

Specifically, we wish to appoint to the following role:

Two or more senior group leader / HoD posts – NIAB Crop Research (Cambridge).  These roles will command a salary in the range of £46,908 up to £75,000 depending upon skills, experience and qualifications. (Quote Ref No: SV/A1251 on your application)

The Essential requirements for these roles are:
• PhD with 2+ years of relevant experience
• A strong track record of high quality research in one of the listed areas. HoD candidates should have a world-class level of research achievements and international prestige in one of the listed Research Areas.  Senior Group Leader candidates should have obtained (or be at the level of) tenured faculty positions with a strong research background, internationally-recognized research quality and reputation, and the capability of leading innovative research. Group Leader candidates should have several years of postdoctoral training in the life sciences, a strong publication record with influential academic papers in international academic journals, and the ability to carry out independent and innovative research.
• Established plant/crop science networks in the UK and internationally in one of the listed Research Areas
• Significant management and leadership experience (for HoD roles) along with management of research staff and/or projects (Group Leader / Senior Group Leader Roles)
• Strong publication record, commensurate with level of the position (Group Leader / Senior Group Leader/HoD), or industry equivalent
• Track record in gaining research funding
• Self-starting, entrepreneurial, motivational, strong communicator, commercial acumen, concern for impact, excellent interpersonal skills
• Demonstrable willingness and ability to set aside personal interest for common goals
• Ability to think logically and deal with complex issues
• Ability to focus without dropping the ball and communicate well at all levels
• Committed, diligent and strong personal motivation
• Hard working
• Strong interpersonal skills, tact and diplomacy
• A desire to realise impact for stakeholder benefits and wider society
• Full driving licence as driving to sites around the UK is essential

The Desirable requirements for these roles are:
• Experience on grant awarding committees
• Experience of representation/leadership on national and international research community bodies
• Evidence of interaction with industry, charities etc.
• Management training

Informal enquiries to:
NIAB Cambridge- Crop Research posts – Richard Harrison (