New partnerships fostered by the Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum.

  • 27
  • JAN
  • 2017

International agri-businesses, scientists and researchers have committed to working together to answer some of the biggest challenges facing global food security. From boosting sustainable food production in Africa to using data to drive efficiencies in UK farming, each new collaboration to be developed hopes to deliver real benefits on the ground.

The new partnerships were fostered by the Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum, held in Hertfordshire from 18-20 January. Attended by around 250 delegates from leading European markets and as far afield as Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, Singapore and America, the forum included a series of workshops to help solve some of the key problems identified by industry leaders.

“Unlike conventional conferences, the Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum was aimed at helping to take those ideas forward into multi partner collaborations that really deliver in practice,” says Bianca Forte, Alliance Manager at Rothamsted Research. “We are offering our conferencing facilities free of charge to those teams, and hope to nurture any resulting business start-ups or research ventures on-site under our Agritech Research Innovation Accelerator Programme.”

Leading the project to boost sustainable food production in Africa will be Prof Steve McGrath, Head of Sustainable Soil and Grassland Systems at Rothamsted Research. Partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who will work to identify suitable areas on which to intensify agriculture and support local farmers in raising productivity.

Jon Timmis; Professor of Intelligent and Adaptive Systems at York University, and Sarah Targett; Data Workflow Support Manager at Syngenta, will head up a project on sharing agricultural data to boost global biodiversity. “Every second we lose a soccer field of farmland to desertification, urbanisation and degradation,” warns Dr Targett. By sharing data and computer modelling, they hope to better co-ordinate activities to connect biodiverse areas and generate cumulative benefits.

Syngenta is also involved in a second opportunity, looking at how to improve data sharing between farmers and related industries, and manage security across different platforms. “Boosting farmer confidence in security and data management will be critical to unlocking the potential that technology holds,” says Syngenta’s Science and Technology Fellow Derek Scuffell, who is leading the project.

A key challenge for many farmers and scientists is securing social acceptance for crop protection technologies. Headed by Bernard Leroux, Head of Portfolio Management at Bayer, this team will consider how to improve consumer understanding of new technological improvements and the benefits it can bring to wider society. “There is a public recognition of the link between science and medicine but not between science and agriculture,” he says. “We need to address that, as agricultural science will be needed more in the future.”

Science may also be the key to unlocking improved yields with lower inputs, says Matthew Ryan, Curator of the Genetic Resource Collection at the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI). He is bringing together an international team to develop understanding of the plant microbiome, leading to enhanced crop health and productivity.

“Open Innovation is all about partnerships,” says Angela Karp, Director of Science Innovation, Engagement and Partnership at Rothamsted Research. “There is a real need for us to pull together to tackle some of these big issues. We need a strategy and an action plan, and we are delighted that ROIF has helped to facilitate this.” ROIF 2018 will examine the success of each project, explore lessons learned, and consider new challenges to address going forward. Provisional dates are 17-19 January 2018.

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About Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise (RoCRE)

The Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, RoCRE, is a new and unique hub focused on promoting collaboration and innovation by partnering with commercial agricultural technology businesses and opening up the research process. RoCRE is part of the historical Rothamsted Research campus located in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside.  RoCRE offers a range of facilities, including state of the art conference facilities, flexible laboratory space, and business incubation units, providing exciting opportunities for your business to thrive. For any media enquiries please contact Olivia Cooper, partner at Agri-hub: The agri-media professionals. Tel: 01392 840009 or email

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.
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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.