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A selection of summaries and explainers for IGFS and Queen's University
Queen’s University Belfast is part of the Russell Group of universities, combining excellence in research and education with a student-centred ethos.
99% of our research environment is world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2021). It is in the UK Top 5 for IP (intellectual property) research commercialisation and No 1 in the UK for KTPs (Knowledge Transfer Partnerships).
The Institute for Global Food Safety (IGFS) is a Global Research Institute within Queen’s University Belfast. Its founder is Professor Chris Elliott, who conducted the UK Government’s inquiry into the horsemeat scandal of 2013.
IGFS is addressing one of the greatest global challenges – how to ensure the integrity of our food and feed a soaring world population amid issues like climate change, pollution, food fraud and global food-supply chains. Food Science at Queen’s and IGFS was ranked No 1 in the UK in the most recent independent REF assessment (2014).
Queen’s University Belfast is part of the Russell Group of the UK’s top research-intensive universities, combining excellence in research and education with a student-centred ethos.
99% of our research environment is world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2021).
Queen’s is a driver of innovation and talent based on excellence. It is globally connected and networked with strategic partnerships across the world, helping expand its impact on wider society locally, nationally and globally.
The university has strong business and industry links and, in fact, is in the Top 5 UK universities for revenue generated from research commercialisation. Through its commercial arm, the university has created over 70 spin-out companies; three of them (Kainos, Andor Technology and Fusion Antibodies) listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Additionally, it is No 1 in the UK for KTPs.
Queen’s is 4th in the world for 'international outlook' (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024) and is increasingly attracting global talent to Belfast.
It currently boasts around 4,000 staff and students from over 90 countries, helping to create a multicultural and vibrant campus. They are joining a university that is committed to attracting, retaining and developing the best global talent within an environment that enables them to realise their full potential.
An innovative, welcoming and inclusive place to work and study, Queen’s also strives to provide leadership in the areas of gender equality and diversity. It is one of the UK’s most successful universities in the Athena SWAN initiative, which promotes gender equality and career progression, with three Gold, six Silver and six Bronze departmental awards, as well as an Institutional Silver.
Over 94% of Queen’s graduates are in employment or further study six months after graduation; Queen’s graduates dominate public life in Northern Ireland, in business, government and education. Did you know that senior leadership positions in 80 of NI's Top 100 companies are occupied by Queen’s graduates?
Queen’s University Belfast is at the forefront of addressing one of the greatest global challenges – how to ensure the safety of our food.
Food science at Queen’s was rated No 1 in the UK in the latest REF exercise – an independent assessment of research-intensiveness at UK universities.
One of Queen’s leading academics in the field, Professor Chris Elliott, carried out the UK Government’s inquiry into the 2013 horse-meat scandal. The laboratory tests developed by Chris and his team are now used all over the world.
Since then, a dedicated Institute for Global Food Security with state-of-the-art equipment has been established at Queen’s to really push the agenda forward, undertaking not only investigation of international food crime but research into a wide spectrum of relevant factors including environmental sustainability, agriculture, health, education and economics.
The Institute drives research under three, key pillars:
- Farms of the Future
- Global Food Integrity
- Food, Nutrition & Health
1. Farms of the Future
Globally, there is a growing understanding that the current farming practices are unsustainable, failing to support a decent standard of living for farmers and not providing enough food to support projected population growth.
Climate-change predicts greater flooding, drought, disease and invasive pests, but in a manner that is not well understood, generating diverse challenges that will demand research-led solutions.
Volatility and instability of global markets impacts the price and availability of raw materials.
IGFS actively explores new ways of enhancing agricultural outputs without compromising ecological stability, from research into reducing livestock methane emissions and novel ways of 'soaking up' ammonia in farmyards, to incorporating new technologies such as smartphones to empower farmers and vets to monitor and control disease, check soil health, etc, all on-site.
How can we enhance profitability and sustainability of farming without compromising biodiversity or ecological stability? How will Brexit affect farming and agri-food supply systems in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, with knock-on effects around the world?
- The Institute will develop a range of paradigm shifts in agricultural practices to enhance profitability and sustainability without compromising biodiversity and ecological stability
2. Global Food Integrity
The development of global food supply systems has markedly altered how food is produced, distributed and sold.
It has brought about many changes for the better in terms of affordability and availability. Yet it has also greatly increased the risk of disease, contamination and fraud.
The Institute for Global Food Security has established itself as a leading research provider to a range of stakeholders including regulators, governments and multinational industries to tackle food contamination/adulteration. Working across disciplines with colleagues at the University, we are engaged on a wide range of food integrity projects on the international stage, eg. EU China Safe and Food Integrity EU.
The development of food-fingerprinting techniques using the latest technologies to detect contamination and/or deliberate adulteration is being supported by a number of multinationals such as Waters Corporation. IP generation and spin-outs from this research is ongoing.
- The analytical laboratories such as ASSET and diagnostic techniques developed at IGFS to carry out this research are among the best in the world and have greatly reduced the time needed to detect contamination in foodstuffs. Examples of contamination we have detected are Arsenic in Rice; Adulteration of Herbs and Spices; while examples of diagnostics we have developed can be explored through our ongoing Food Fortress research
3. Food, Nutrition & Health
Research in IGFS is exploring diet across the life-cycle, from childhood and adolescence, through pregnancy, to at-risk, diseased and older populations, linking diet with a range of human health issues (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease).
Researchers are using biomarkers to better measure diet, then examining determinants of eating behaviour, how to promote behaviour change and developing interventions to achieve this change.
This is successful, both in terms of quality research outputs and income but also in terms of impact, with demonstrated effects of dietary interventions on eating behaviours and health-relevant outcomes. The IGFS combination of exploration of mechanisms by which nutrients may impact on disease, alongside epidemiological analysis, dietary interventions, consideration of consumer attitudes, and development of interventions to change behaviour, is an overarching approach designed to maximise impact in the short term on population health.
- The work involves multi-disciplinary collaborations across the University, investigating key research areas such as biomarker discovery and changing lifestyle behaviours