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Reading leads on food security research funding – University of Reading

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Reading leads on food security research funding

Release Date 24 January 2012

Professor Paul Hadley shows Universities and Science Minister David Willetts cocoa crops

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts was impressed with facilities at the University of Reading's food pilot plant and cocoa glasshouses during a visit to launch a £67m funding scheme for PhD studentships.

Reading has joined together with four other institutions to provide vital research in food security as part of the new Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) scheme, announced by the Minister and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The initiative will build on the excellent research training offered by universities and foster the greater sharing of good practice to ensure the next generation of bioscientists develop the skills that the UK needs.

The University of Reading is leading a consortium of the universities of Southampton, Surrey and Lancaster and Rothamstead Research. The consortium has been awarded approximately £1.8 million for 18 PhD students who will address the challenges of feeding the globe's population healthily and in a sustainable way.

The DTP funding allows institutions to recruit the best students and secure additional funding from other sources, such as industry or charities to increase the impact of public investment. The University of Reading and partners are matching the BBSRC investment from its own budgets to increase the number of PhD students that will be trained under the programme.

Professor Richard Tiffin, Director of the University's Centre for Food Security, said: "At Reading we are unique in having individual research projects that cover the whole food chain. However, we recognise that a single institutional approach will not succeed in addressing all of the challenges that food security presents. The new DTP encourages the development of links with leading research groups beyond the University that complement our own strengths and can make a real difference to the food security agenda."

Mr Willetts said: "This £67 million investment in postgraduate training is excellent news for students, research organisations, industry and the UK as a whole. The brightest and best students will be finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing us all, from food security through to renewable energy. The partnership approach means that many institutions are combining their strengths to provide students with improved training and relevant work experience. This will better equip them for future careers, be it in research, industry, or elsewhere."

During his visit Mr Willetts also toured the Hugh Sinclair Human Nutrition Group in the University's School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, and the cocoa glasshouse used for vital research into sustaining future crops.

The University of Reading is a world-leader in food security research and training and is able to offer natural and social science expertise across the whole food chain, from soil through food production and processing, to dietary health. Its Centre of Food Security joins together existing areas of research excellence at the University to provide a platform for developing real-world solutions to tackle issues such as changes in climate and land use, over-nutrition in western societies, changes of nutrition in developing countries and increased awareness of the environmental consequences of food production.

The University is the lead partner in the Food Advanced Training Partnership, one of four Advanced Training Partnerships in the UK funded by BBSRC. The project brings together more than 20 foremost industry partners, including Waitrose, Kraft and Mars, to develop the skills needed to support the production of quality food, from farm to fork.

Its Process Research Centre in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences is the largest food processing pilot plant in the UK. The Centre is equipped with a wide range of equipment and machinery, with a value of over £4million. Projects range from simple one-off process trials to long-term studies in which concepts are developed through to pilot scale production.

The Hugh Sinclair Human Nutrition Group has an international reputation for its research into the relationship between diet and the risk of chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease and cancer. A particular strength is the diverse range of facilities and investigative techniques employed, including cell and molecular methods, model system studies and human intervention trials.

Reading is the leading expert on research into the sustainability of cocoa. The University is home to the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre (ICQC), which handles all international movement of cocoa breeding material and is the only facility of its kind in the world. ICQC is playing a pivotal role in stopping the spread of pests and disease on cocoa, whilst ensuring that research centres worldwide have access to new and interesting types of cocoa.

Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills, said, "We believe that this approach is a great way of doing things, enabling us to support the very best students working in the most important areas from food security through to crucial underpinning bioscience. DTPs are all about training researchers to be the best they can be. By doing this we can make real inroads into answering global conundrums which will ultimately have a massive impact on the UK economy and further afield."

The overall investment includes support for 14 Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) across the UK as well as a number of industrial CASE (iCASE) studentship awards. Over the next three years, the DTPs will support 660 four-year PhD students. In addition the iCASE studentships will support 70 postgraduates from this autumn. Both programmes will provide highly skilled scientists for academia, policy and industry and support the BBSRC mission to further scientific knowledge for economic growth, wealth and job creation - improving the quality of life in the UK and beyond.


For more information please contact Rona Cheeseman, Research Communications Manager, on 0118 378 7388 or email

Notes to editors

The University of Reading is ranked as one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The quality and diversity of the University's research and teaching is recognised internationally as one of the top 1% of universities in the world (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011) and it consistently rates highly in measures of student satisfaction - the UK's National Student Survey 2011 (top 20 ranking) and the International Student Barometer.

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