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QUB-AFBI strategic alliance: an update

Scientists from IGFS and other parts of Queen's and from AFBI converged recently to discuss the evolution of the formal partnership between the two organisations

Launch of the QUB-AFBI strategic alliance, Balmoral Show, May 2018

by Peter Lamont, AFBI-QUB Alliance Project Manager

Firstly, a big thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy schedule to make the recent QUB-AFBI Networking Event. There was a great turnout, and a high level of engagement. I hope that everyone came away with a real sense, that through this alliance, we have the opportunity together to really make a difference.

The day was structured to enable insightful presentations from Professor Nigel Scollan, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's; Dr Elizabeth Magowan, Director of Sustainable Agrifood Science at AFBI; Dr Steven Morrison, Head of Agriculture, AFBI Hillsborough; & Professor Mark Emmerson, of IGFS and the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's, before moving to two networking sessions. The first session was essentially a meet & greet while the second session involved target groups (which, interestingly, were created through AI analysis by Dr Jose Sousa, Manager of Queen's Core Technology Units), allowing discussion of the challenges in broad areas such as soil, animal & plant health, food production, the environment and behavioural change.

Prof Nigel Scollan (left) welcomed everyone to the event and outlined the vision, as set in May 2018, for the joint alliance:

“To create a globally connected state-of-the-art research, education, enterprise and knowledge-exchange alliance that addresses grand challenges in agriculture and food security and facilitates a future generation of skilled professionals equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to transform our current food-production systems”. 

Prof Scollan went on to highlight the similar journey undertaken by Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, which operates an alliance between the University and a total of nine research institutes, with a turnover in excess of 710m Euro and a world ranking of Number 3, demonstrating how powerful such an alliance can be. Prof Scollan then gave a summary of the main challenges facing global food production finishing with an overview of the School of Biological Sciences and IGFS.

Dr Elizabeth Magowan (below) presented some of the local challenges facing food producers at the same time highlighting the importance of data and AI in future solutions. Dr Magowan presented the benefits and complementarity of the alliance, especially with regard to funding streams and demonstrated how this gave the ability to take fundamental research findings and strategically apply them to enable quick and efficient application in farms and food producers.  

She detailed the high level of collaboration between the two organisations already ongoing with in excess of £11.8m of funded projects underway and further projects in the pipeline as well as 30 PhD students. She highlighted the joint goal of co-creating clusters with supported joint platforms which will be glued by ‘data’ to collectively provide transformation.                             

Dr Steven Morrison presented a specific example of already-existing collaboration between Queen's and AFBI in the area of ruminant production, highlighting the benefits of collaboration and the need to build on the levels of trust between both organisations, understand the strengths and weaknesses of each, and exploring at an early stage the use of a larger scale research platform.

Prof Mark Emmerson then gave a presentation on the benefits of the current AFBI-Queen’s collaboration on the QUADRAT (Queen’s University & University of Aberdeen Research and Training) partnership. Mark related this back to the 'student journey' and explained how further collaboration between Queen’s & AFBI would further build on this initiative.

During the afternoon session the predetermined groups focused on specific topics of interest, discussing the challenges relating to each and how they may approach a solution. Each team presented a summary of their discussions in a wrap up session and these will be fed into the Alliance’s Science Steering Group which is tasked with developing a roadmap on the way forward.

  • If you have any further feedback on this session or on how you would like to see the Alliance progress, you can email Peter Lamont P.lamont@qub.ac.uk
  • Download the slide presentations from the networking session here:

Dr Elizabeth Magowan

Prof Nigel Scollan

Prof Mark Emmerson

Dr Steven Morrison