Research products generate £160m for UK

The products of Mylnefield Research Services (MRS) - the commercial wing of the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) - have generated £160m a year for the UK economy.

This marks a 14-fold return on public money and is the achievement of the MRS team - led by managing director Nigel Kerby.

Speaking at SCRI's Fruit for the Future event in Dundee on 17 July, Kerby explained that keeping an eye on the intellectual property rights accruing from UK research successes is a constant battle to make sure revenue comes home to continue to fund more research. He detailed a couple of recent examples of working with other countries to achieve this.

MRS became aware that in Spain the SCRI-bred raspberry variety Glen Lyon had become the standard variety grown in Huelva, with more than 700ha in production.

Before 2005, illegal propagation was out of control with no payment of plant variety rights (PVRs).

When new EU legislation made infringement of intellectual property rights a criminal offence, MRS could start solving the problem.

Meetings to point out the illegalities to growers in Spain - many of whom were big landowners and therefore important people in the local community - helped.

Appointing a good Spanish agent, Eurosemillas, was also a huge step forward - but 10 legal actions have been initiated in Spain to show MRS "means business".

Another tactic Kerby has been unafraid to use is the fact that 60 per cent of Spanish raspberries are destined for UK supermarkets - and supermarkets will not want to be found to be buying illegally produced fruit.

He said that "cheating" was still going on - but royalties for 2006/07 were collected for 600ha of Glen Lyon.

One useful resource is aerial photography, which can be used in monitoring because at certain times of the year in Huelva the only crop that will be covered by tunnels is the raspberry crop.

Work to secure similar successes in Morocco and in Portugal is underway.

Kerby revealed that MRS has recently agreed a co-operative joint venture with Chinese, Danish, and Hungarian partners to grow SCRI varieties in China.

At present, the Chinese have established a PVR system for strawberries but not for raspberries - still a new crop in China.

There is a large domestic opportunity for selling raspberries to restaurants, hotels and for processed products so the question for MRS was how to enter this new market.

It joined the Danasia Berry (Beijing) Corporation marketing company, based just outside Beijing, and this year about 46ha of raspberries are in production.

The MRS stake in the company means that no money has been invested.

Rather, it has the exclusive rights to grow eight SCRI raspberry varieties in China, which have been exchanged for equity in the new company - already worth $1.8m (£909,000).

Kerby was at pains to point out that a condition of the deal also means that no fruit from the SCRI-bred varieties can be exported to the UK without SCRI consent.

Fortunately, others were already in negotiation with the Chinese government - particularly the Danes - which saved a lot of time and research.

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