The government’s new flagship fund for industrial development has invested in research that promises to provide smart protection for the world’s agricultural crops.

  • 11
  • AUG
  • 2017

Rothamsted Research has secured government funding to kick-start its new five-year strategic programme, Smart Crop Protection, to control sustainably the pests, pathogens and weeds that destroy nearly a third of crops grown worldwide. The investment of circa £6.3 million covers the programme’s first three years.

The announcement of the investment from the government’s flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) comes today from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  

Rothamsted’s SCP strategy will improve crop productivity by using the latest technology to detect, monitor, predict and control insect pests, plant pathogens and weeds. The programme integrates chemical, genetic, biological, ecological, mathematical and agronomic approaches to deliver more targeted control strategies. 

“We are delighted to have received ISCF investment for the delivery of research that offer solutions for one of agriculture’s most testing challenges,” says Achim Dobermann, Rothamsted’s director and chief executive. “Globally, 30% of crop yield is lost to pests, pathogens and weeds. Improving the efficiency and sustainability of crop protection is one of the most accessible ways to intensify agriculture sustainably.”

Paul Neve, leader of the SCP programme at Rothamsted, commented: “Through this investment, we aim to deliver a new vision for managing crop health. Using the latest technologies, our goal is to limit the incidence, distribution, dispersal, evolutions and impact of crop biotic threats. We also aim to maximise the efficacy and sustainability of control interventions”

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which strategically funds Rothamsted, is responsible for distributing the total £16.6 million investment from the ISCF to develop new agricultural technologies and industrial bioprocesses to underpin a more successful bioeconomy. 

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “This significant investment will support pioneering bioscience research and development projects that will reduce our reliance on carbon, boost the productivity of our nation’s crops and develop new world-leading agricultural technologies.”

The funded projects will de-risk innovative ideas arising from academia and industry for the development of transformative new technologies, processes and practices to advance the production of food, chemicals, materials and energy.

Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst: Seeding and Feasibility – the project supports the UK being a world-leader in industrial biotechnology by enhancing access to innovative products and processes, reducing reliance on ‘fossil’ carbon and helping to meet climate change targets. 

Agri-Food Technology Catalyst: Seeding and Feasibility – the project will contribute to increasing productivity, sustainability and resilience of the UKs Agri-Food sector whilst maintaining food security and export opportunities post-Brexit. 

Smart Crop Protection: Increasing Supply-Chain Resilience – the project will improve crop productivity by using the latest technology to detect, monitor, predict and control pests and diseases of crops.

Melanie Welham, BBSRC chief executive said: “Bioscience continues to push the frontiers of knowledge and understanding, providing ample opportunities to address the challenges we face in food security and energy and also to transform the UKs future bioeconomy.” 

The ISCF builds on the UK’s world-class research and innovation base and seeks to deliver innovative solutions to address the needs of business, transforming existing industries and creating new ones. It seeks to accelerate commercial exploitation of the most exciting technologies the UK has to offer the world to ensure that scientific investment drives productivity and truly delivers economic impact, jobs and growth right across the country.

The ISCF is delivered by Innovate UK and Research Councils UK, and eventually UK Research and Innovation, the single voice for the UK’s research and innovation landscape.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.