The James Hutton Institute has announced the appointment of directors for three flagship research and innovation initiatives: the International Barley Hub (IBH) and the Advanced Plant Growth Centre (APGC), both based in Dundee, and the International Land Use Study Centre (ILUSC) in Aberdeen.
Barley is Scotland’s most important crop and a fundamental component of many key food and drink industries. It is pivotal to brewing and distilling, it is used as a food and for animal feed. The IBH will help secure the long-term future of the barley sector by developing new varieties and growing systems that can cope with future climate change as well as new uses for barley, which has significant human health benefits when used as a food.
Professor Robbie Waugh, a renowned barley geneticist based at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee, will take up the role of director of IBH. The initiative seeks to create a unique, integrated, open platform for the translation of barley research into economic, social, environmental and commercial impacts benefiting breeding, farming, malting, brewing, feed, food, health and related industries.
The APGC project embodies the idea of Agriculture 4.0, a green revolution with science and technology at its heart, and the aim of feeding future populations. It focuses on totally-controlled-environment agriculture, enhancing the UK’s capabilities to play its part in leading the science agenda around this rapidly expanding market which is expected to be worth $10 billion by 2025.
APGC will be led by Professor Derek Stewart, a former Chair of Food Chemistry at Heriot Watt University. Derek has wide international experience of the agri-food business sector and has been responsible for leading and developing research opportunities on natural product chemistry, food and drink supply and value chains, production systems, biomass, waste valorisation and the circular economy.
IBH and APGC are supported through a transformational capital investment of £62m by the UK and Scottish governments through the Tay Cities Region Deal. This funding is the biggest single investment in Scottish agricultural science ever and will drive and power the green recovery needed after COVID-19.
The International Land Use Study Centre (ILUSC) is an initiative supported by the Macaulay Development Trust aiming to promote scientific and impact excellence, at a time when the importance of land and natural resource for societal wellbeing is increasingly being recognised. ILUSC will integrate and build on Hutton’s international recognised land and natural resource science to showcase and take this research forward, establishing a cutting-edge experiential research methods laboratory for public and academic use.
Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland has been appointed director of ILUSC. She is an internationally recognised rural sociologist with expertise in in European agrarian development, human-environment relations, and farm-level decision-making, and is pioneering new ways of measuring peoples experience of land and the environment using visualisation technologies. Lee-Ann brings considerable experience of winning international funding to ILUSC, where she will develop a high impact programme of open scientific research which addresses contemporary ‘grand challenges’, including climate change and transition to a post-carbon economy; food, energy and water security; soil and biodiversity protection; antimicrobial use and Covid-19 recovery.
Commenting on the appointments, Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, said: “It is a pleasure to announce Robbie, Derek and Lee-Ann as the directors of IBH, APGC and ILUSC. They are all highly successful and dynamic leaders and highly respected in their own fields, have influential national and international networks, and have clear and exciting vision and plans.
“These projects will create jobs, aid the green recovery we all need and want, and cement the reputation of Scotland and the whole of the UK as global leaders in research and innovation.”
These three centres are flagship initiatives for the institute’s new 5-year Open Science Campus plan and will be enabled by significant investment in new buildings and facilities starting this year. New access roads to the Invergowrie and Craigiebuckler sites will allow reconfiguration of the estates that encourages more private and public sector partners to co-locate with the James Hutton Institute and get access to their world-class facilities and people.
About the Tay Cities Region Deal
The Tay Cities Region Deal is a partnership between local, Scottish and UK governments and the private, academic and voluntary sectors which seeks to create a smarter and fairer Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth & Kinross under the headings Inclusive Tay; Innovative Tay; International Tay; Connected Tay and An Empowered Tay. In total, the 26 projects submitted require investment of £700 million of which £300 million over 10 years is being put in by the UK Government and Scottish Government, subject to final approval of robust business cases. If every project and programme set out in the submission is funded and delivered, up to 6,000 job opportunities could be created across the tourism, food and drink, creative industries, eco innovation, digital, decommissioning, engineering, biomedical and health and care sectors. For more information, visit www.taycities.co.uk.