Growing the economy with agri-tech know-how

28th May 2013

Rothamsted Research and Plant Impact yesterday launched a new collaboration, which brings together one of the UK’s brightest new businesses in plant science innovation and the world’s longest running independent agricultural research institute, where they will combine their leading scientific expertise to develop innovative solutions for UK and global agriculture.

George Freeman, the Government’s Life Science adviser, told an audience of industry representatives and academics gathered at Rothamsted Research for the official launch of the partnership yesterday that Britain needed a "compelling story" of what it could sell to the world and that the technology surrounding the agri-food industry could be a key part of such a strategy to attract UK inward investment. He also noted that Britain’s agricultural sector is "an extraordinary industry growing the most important product".

The partnership of Plant Impact and the Rothamsted Research illustrates a number of important trends that match the objectives of the British Government and those of the UK scientific community. This partnership is about harnessing taxpayer-funded research to further the development of useful, applicable, science; and creating an environment in which a life science SME can thrive. It is partnerships like this that the Government’s forthcoming Agri-Tech Strategy will encourage and nurture, stimulating a growth area for the British economy.

"The appliance of science, of British know-how, provides the opportunity to be serious about getting the country out of an economic mess," Mr Freeman said. "Life science is fast becoming the science of life; mass markets need food, medicine and energy. Science is key to producing more from less; good agriculture doesn’t function without science".

"Last year, we published the life science strategy. Now, we’re putting the finishing touches to our agri-tech strategy. The Government firmly believes that agrifood, or agri-tech science, should be up there alongside bioscience and medical science as an industry that’s key to this country’s future. It needs the recognition it deserves," he stressed.

Mr Freeman was visiting Rothamsted to open the new headquarters of Plant Impact plc, a British SME that uses ‘plant science innovation’ to develop products that help farmers solve efficiency gaps in existing production systems. Plant Impact is the first company to move its headquarters and research base to Rothamsted, in what the 170-year-old institute hopes will become a multi-partner centre for research and enterprise to develop new technologies as a cluster of academics, SMEs and entrepreneurial start-ups. The company has benefited from investors’ increased awareness of agri-tech’s importance, doubling its workforce in 12 months and expanding its overseas markets, including the agriculturally significant and fast-growing economy of Brazil. 

"Plant Impact exemplifies the kind of science on which we need to focus," said Professor Maurice Moloney, the Director of Rothamsted Research. "That’s 'discovery science', matched with the ability to move it down the supply chain to put it into the hands of the right people. It’s this type of modern, vibrant company, brimming with new products and new ideas, that we need to be building in UK agriculture."

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