Multi-million pound funding from HEFCE for N8 food security research programme

News | Posted on Wednesday 25 March 2015

The University of York is to host a new multi-million pound N8 Research Partnership programme which is set to transform UK food security research.

tractor in sunlight
tractor in sunlight

The programme was announced today by the Minister for Universities, Sciences and Cities, Greg Clark.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has awarded The N8 Research Partnership – a partnership of the eight research-intensive universities in the North (Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York) – a grant of £7,999,254 through its Catalyst Fund to develop its Agri-Food Resilience programme. This will be matched equally by the N8 universities.

A multi-disciplinary initiative, the Agri-Food Resilience Programme will build on the N8’s research strengths in science, engineering and the social sciences to address key global challenges in food security, including sustainable food production, resilient food supply chains, improved nutrition and consumer behaviours.

The University of York will host the N8 Agri-Food Resilience Programme on behalf of the N8 Research Partnership; this is particularly welcome for YESI as it strengthens our capacity to tackle a complex and urgent global challenge using multidisciplinary approaches.

Through the programme, the N8 aims to combine world-leading crop and livestock research - plus the facilities offered by six experimental farms across the N8 universities - with the partnership institutions’ vast expertise in social sciences, including business and management, to create a single research initiative focused on ensuring the stability of national and global agri-food supply chains.

The N8, which harnesses the strengths of the greatest concentration of bioscientists engaged in agri-food research in the UK, will also work with farmers and other businesses to increase resilience and economic competitiveness, and develop new models and organisational capabilities for large scale, strategic research programmes.

Together, the N8 universities have an impressive track record in agri-food science, with more than 370 researchers working on projects in this area and a portfolio of £269 million of research funding over the last six years.

Professor Deborah Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of York, said: “This exciting research programme addresses one of the major global challenges of our time – how to feed 9-10 billion people sustainably and equitably by the end of the century. 

“Expertise within the N8 universities, working in partnership with others across the region, will drive this agenda forwards and work towards novel solutions with international impact. This award could not be more timely or more important.”

Sir Alan Langlands, Chair of the N8 Board of Directors and Vice Chancellor of The University of Leeds, said: “Food security is one of the great challenges in our increasingly urbanised and globalised world; the need to ensure food production and distribution is resilient and sustainable is an urgent task faced by governments, industry and society. This is a task beyond any single research group or institution.

“This Catalyst funding from HEFCE means that the N8 can now implement an integrated, large scale multi-disciplinary research programme which will make a major, long-term impact in addressing the challenge of food security.

“The N8 Research Partnership has great strength, expertise and resources to make progress in this area and our work will play a key part in the Agri-Food Resilience Programme.”

David Sweeney, Director of Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE, said: “This is an important collaborative project involving a strong partnership of universities with relevant and complementary expertise in research and knowledge exchange.

“Food security is a strategic priority for the nation. This investment will support higher education to deliver new translational research activity with business, and complements other agri-tech developments HEFCE is supporting.”

Since 2007, The N8 Research Partnership has delivered ground breaking collaborative programmes in research, equipment sharing and industry engagement.

It brings companies together across supply chains to combine capability to produce innovative products and services and through initiatives such as the N8 Industry Innovation Programme, businesses can connect with ‘unlikely partners’ to create new, step-changing innovations.

Notes to editors:

About the N8 Research Partnership:

The N8 Research Partnership is a partnership of the 8 research-intensive universities in the North of England – Durham University, Lancaster University, The University of Leeds, the University of Liverpool, the University of Manchester, Newcastle University, the University of Sheffield and the University of York.

The N8 Research Partnership aims to maximise the impact of this research base by identifying and co-ordinating powerful research teams and collaborations, creating teams with a critical mass of world-class academics and forming a network of virtual centres of innovation excellence.

Among the N8 Research Partnership's main research programmes are initiatives in:

  • Industrial Biotechnology
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Policing
  • The Impact of Arts and Humanities
  • Social sciences
  • Food security

The three broad criteria for the N8 Research Partnership research programmes are:

  1. Demand for multi-disciplinary solutions from public and private sector research users
  2. Combinations of multidisciplinary world-class capability across the N8 universities
  3. Synergy - where working together can achieve a greater output than a single university effort

Through these programmes, the N8 Research Partnership has worked with over 200 new businesses, many of which are SMEs, generated over £41M of income and created 60 jobs since it was established in 2007.
About HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund
The HEFCE Catalyst fund supports innovative and exceptional activity across the higher education sector in teaching, research and knowledge exchange. The fund provides investment in projects which will achieve major strategic changes and provide ongoing benefits for higher education and wider society that would not happen without additional support. For more about the Catalyst Fund see: .