Rural affairs, food and environment research programme 2016 to 2022: evaluation report

This report presents the findings of an evaluation into the impact from the rural affairs, food and environment research programme 2016 to 2022.

2. Introduction

2.1. Background

The Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Research Strategy for 2016-21[3] ("the Strategy") provided the vision and strategy for investment by the Scottish Government in environmental and agricultural research over a five-year period. A one-year extension was implemented for 2021/22 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of the research was delivered by Main Research Providers (MRPs), which included the James Hutton Institute (incorporating Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland - BioSS), Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), Moredun Research Institute (also referred to as Moredun), and the Rowett Institute[4]. However, Additional Research Providers (ARPs) such as universities and Higher Education Institutes (HEI) also provided expertise. The delivery model for the Strategy covered the following four areas:

1. The Strategic Research Programme (SRP), which was the main focus for the delivery of science. It had three themes: 'Food, health and wellbeing'; 'Productive and sustainable land management and rural economies'; and 'Natural assets';

2. Underpinning Capacity. This funding stream maintained key assets such as the National Soils Archive[5] to ensure their long-term sustainability;

3. Centres of Expertise (CoE). There are four CoEs: ClimateXChange (Centre of expertise connecting climate change research and policy (CXC)); CREW (Centre of Expertise for Waters); EPIC (Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks); and the Plant Health Centre (launched 2017/18); and

4. Programme extension year. This had four specific aims including:

  • Recovery: to enable experiments and research to make up for lost time;
  • Impact: to use the previous years' work and make best application of it;
  • Covid-19: to carry out new research based on issues relating directly to the disease, the response to it or emerging data; and
  • EU-exit: to investigate research on EU-exit impacts for the rural, agricultural or food sectors.

Also relevant for delivery is the SEFARI Gateway Centre, which is the knowledge exchange and impact hub for SEFARI (the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes)[6]. SEFARI was launched in March 2017 and it is led by a consortium of six research institutes including the five MRPs named above with the addition of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh[7].

2.2. Aims and objectives of study

Risk & Policy Analysts (RPA) has been contracted by the Scottish Government to undertake an evaluation of the Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Research Programme 2016-22. The aims and objectives of the evaluation are as follows:

1. Gather and present the Programme inputs, outputs, delivery and outcomes;

2. Understand and quantify the impact to Scotland from the research undertaken – including: community benefit, net zero contribution, policy contribution and scientific benefit, where appropriate, use should be made of guidance from the Magenta Book;

3. Understand and quantify what value Scotland, and the Scottish Government, gained from the research undertaken within the Programme. This includes a robust estimate of the economic impact of the Programme, again referring to Magenta Book methodology where and when appropriate;

4. Provide appraisal on the Programme delivery and performance of both the MRPs and the Scottish Government. This includes detail on the advantages and disadvantages to the delivery model. Consideration should be given to delivery vehicles, the procurement arrangements and the research delivery framework; and

5. Provide a comparative assessment against the final research outputs and the vision and principles set out in the Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Research Strategy for 2016 – 2021.

The scope of the evaluation includes the SRP, the Underpinning Capacity, the CoEs and the Programme Extension Year 2022.

2.3. Structure of this evaluation report

This report provides the final report of the evaluation. The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Section 3 provides information on the approach to the evaluation;
  • Section 4 presents the findings; and
  • Section 5 covers the conclusions and recommendations.

More detail is available in the technical annexes.



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