£17m grant for "unique" new crop science centre

A joint project by the University of Cambridge and National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), the new Cambridge Centre for Crop Science (3CS) "will focus on linking with farming and food industries to translate research into real-world impact".

Image: CIAT (CC BY SA 2.0)
Image: CIAT (CC BY SA 2.0)

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has pledged £16.9m to create the centre, adding to funding from the NIAB Trust.

It will be housed in a state-of-the-art research laboratory at NIAB’s Cambridge site, and will involve researchers from the university, NIAB, the Cambridge Sainsbury Laboratory, and other UK and international research institutes.

Researchers will work with industrial partners to translate the university’s fundamental plant research into outputs for the farmer, processor and consumer, across food, fuels, industrial feedstocks and pharmaceuticals.

Professor Sir David Baulcombe, head of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences and the project lead for the university, said: "We envisage that new 3CS crop technologies will enable higher crop yields and lower environmental impact for crop-based food production – as well as contributing to improved dietary health."

NIAB chief executive and director Dr Tina Barsby added: "The delivery of both public goods and economic growth is an essential agenda for today’s plant scientists, with the need to produce sufficient healthy nutritious food without harming the environment being at the top of the international agenda.

"Creating the facilities to bring together NIAB and the university in 3CS presents an extraordinary opportunity for impacting this agenda through the development of world-class science and translation."

In addition to the Cambridge Centre, the funding will also provide new field stations and offices at NIAB’s Histon site, as well as new glasshouses with full environmental controls.

As well as researching production of global commodities such as wheat and rice, the centre will look at advances in the genetics and agronomy of other UK crops such as potato and legumes.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, said: "3CS will be unlike anywhere else in Europe because it connects a world-leading University directly to growers, breeders and other sectors of industry associated with crops.

"The 3CS will be the centrepiece of what will be significant new collaborations, and an exemplar of what can be achieved by bringing together interested parties to focus on sustainable crop production – essential for food security, resilience to climate change, and the growing bio-economy."

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