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UKRI announce £5 million investment to train the next generation of UK food system leaders

City’s Centre for Food Policy is a lead partner on new UK doctoral training centre supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

by Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer)

Today is World Food Day, which arrives with the announcement from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) of its investment of over £5 million in a new centre for doctoral training to train the next generation of UK food system leaders to re-shape how we make, transport and consume our food.

UKRI is the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK. Operating across the whole of the UK, it is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The new centre for doctoral training, the ‘Partnership for a Sustainable Food Future – Centre for Doctoral Training’ (PSFF-CDT), will be led by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich in collaboration with the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, University College London, Royal Veterinary College, Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University, University of Sussex, and Brunel University London; and two leading Agricultural Research Institutes, NIAB EMR and Rothamsted Research, plus over 50 partners from business, local and national government and civil society.

The PSFF-CDT will support a total of 62 PhD studentships, training doctoral researchers to become future food systems leaders and innovators. At the heart of PSFF-CDT’s challenge-led approach is an open Food Systems Academy, a dynamic learning network which brings together doctoral researchers, their supervisors, and government, business and civil society organisations to co-design doctoral projects and to co-create and disseminate new knowledge with lasting impact. The PSFF-CDT will prioritise the student journey and adopt best practice in doctoral training, collaborating with the flagship BBSRC LIDo DTP. Each studentship will include a placement in a food system stakeholder organisation and research projects will integrate the natural and social sciences.

Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London, said:

With the United Nations hosting a Food Systems Summit next year, training on how to effectively leverage the multiple interconnections in the food system for positive solutions has never been so as vital now. The Centre for Food Policy is looking forward to bringing its 25 years of experience in teaching food system skills to this new Partnership for Sustainable Food Future – Centre for Doctoral Training (PSFF-CDT) to upskill the next generation of people to transform food systems for better nutrition, health,  environment and livelihoods.

Professor Andrew Westby, Director of NRI and leader of the PSFF consortium, said:

“We are very happy to be working with influential partners in research and training, together with food systems stakeholders from all sectors, to develop the next generation of food systems leaders in the UK. As a partnership, we are also excited to look beyond this CDT, to have the opportunity to help shape a truly resilient, healthy and inclusive food system in the UK, working closely with government and the private and charitable sectors to make this a reality.”

Professor Melanie Welham, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)’s Executive Chair and Executive Sponsor for the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF)  Transforming UK Food Systems Programme said:

“Our food systems are complex and interrelated, with inevitable trade-offs between costs and benefits, and competing priorities.

“As the UK changes demographically, technologically and socially, and in the context of grave threats from climate change and pollution, we must train a new generation of leaders and innovators who can bring new ideas, provide evidence, and safeguard values to bring about healthy people, a healthy environment, a healthy economy, healthy animals and a healthy society.”

Professor Guy Poppy, Director of the Transforming UK Food Systems Programme, said:

“The need to transform the UK’s food system is essential as we build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic and try to ensure the health of humans and the environment. It is really exciting that more than 60 future leaders will graduate from the Partnership for Sustainable Food Future – Centre for Doctoral Training (PSFF-CDT). The level of engagement with key partners from across the food system fills me with confidence that those graduating will have a wonderful career ahead of them in which they can contribute to a healthier, sustainable and more prosperous UK food system.”

Henry Dimbleby, Independent Lead, National Food Strategy said:

“The world is finally waking up to the fact that the global food system represents the mother of all sustainability issues. It is responsible for an estimated 20-30% of total greenhouse gas emissions. It occupies half the world’s habitable land, uses 70% of the freshwater we consume, causes three-quarters of all water pollution, and is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss. At the same time, treating food related illness is absorbing ever large amounts of capacity of the NHS – with all the personal misery that goes with that.

“We need to train a new generation of leaders to haul us out of this mess, and the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Food Systems looks to do just that. It is a welcome and necessary part of the solution to these deep systemic problems.”

Find out more

Visit the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London.

Visit the National Resources Institute, University of Greenwich.

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