Sixteen UK universities offering courses in agriculture and agricultural research have come together to form the Agricultural Universities Council (AUC).
The Council, which includes Newcastle University, Aberystwyth University, University of Edinburgh, Queens University Belfast and Harper Adams University, will agree on joint agricultural research priorities, working with British farmers and other industry stakeholders.
This new research initiative was announced on 27 January by Defra Secretary of State George Eustice at the launch of the UK Agriculture Partnership.
The Council’s first project will be to map existing agricultural research capacity across the UK for the first time in a decade, and work with farmers, as well as environmental, welfare and community groups, food businesses, and other stakeholders, to shape future research priorities.
The initiative aims to provide a joined-up approach to research and to ensure public investment in agricultural innovation makes a difference on the ground, the AUC said.
Newcastle University's Professor Rob Edwards, who chairs the AUC, said: “We already have a wealth of expertise and facilities for agricultural education and research across the UK but we can make even more of it, with more benefit for farming and the public, if we coordinate our efforts.
“That’s why this group of universities, from across the four nations of the UK, has decided to work together as the Agricultural Universities Council. Universities, like all sectors, are faced with a whole range of competing demands and pressures and I’ve been heartened by the huge goodwill and commitment our members have brought to working together.”
Professor Michael Lee, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Harper Adams University, added: “The research being carried out across the institutions which form the AUC – including my own, Harper Adams University – is vital, enabling sustainable food and farming practices to be developed for coming generations.
“Through collaborative action with each other, industry, and our farmers, we can ensure that world-leading research is deployed in the most effective manner.”
The AUC comprises Newcastle University, Aberystwyth University, Cranfield Environment and Agrifood, Harper Adams University, Hartpury University, Queen’s University Belfast, Royal Agriculture University, SRUC, The University of Edinburgh, University of Hertfordshire, University of Leeds, University of Lincoln, University of Nottingham, University of Reading, University of Warwick, and Writtle University College. It is supported by the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust and the Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture.