Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016: economic impact

Assessment of the economic impacts generated by the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division's research programme.

3 Background And Context

This chapter describes the strategic background and context for the 2011-16 SRP. It also describes the structure and objectives of the strategic research portfolio and summary information about each of the MRPs.

3.1 Strategic Context

3.1.1 Scottish Government Policy Environment

For several years the Scottish Government has been very clear in its commitment to achieving sustainable and equitable economic growth. The Government has been equally clear in the important role that it expects Scotland's research community to play in achieving these objectives.

The latest version of the Scottish Government's economic strategy identifies four key strategic priorities: investment, innovation, inclusive growth and internationalisation. The commercialisation of research and development is identified as a key objective under the innovation priority.

3.1.2 Strategic Research Strategy 2011-2016

The Strategic Research Portfolio ( SRP) within the Rural Affairs and Environment ( RAE) Portfolio supports a Greener, Smarter and Wealthier Scotland and contributes towards the achievement of a number of national outcomes [4] including:

  • We value and enjoy our built and natural environment and protect it and enhance it for future generations;
  • We reduce the local and global environmental impact of our consumption and production;
  • We are better educated, more skilled and more successful, renowned for our research and innovation.

In seeking to deliver these higher level aims, the research strategy sets out the wider strategic context for the Government's research investment in the Rural Affairs and Environment ( RAE) portfolio, the research priorities for the 2011 - 2016 research programme and the approach to knowledge exchange [5] .

3.1.3 Rural Affairs and Environment Objectives

Our Rural Future published in 2011 set out the Government's vision for Rural Scotland:

"We want to see a rural Scotland that is outward looking and dynamic - with a diverse economy and active communities. Rural prosperity will increase in ways which make best use of all of our resources - our people, as well as the land, seas, rivers and wildlife. Our rural communities will grow in confidence and diversity, taking control of local assets and providing local services to generate income and employment. Our young people will have the opportunity to build careers and prosperous futures in the area where they grew up. Services of the highest possible quality and with the greatest possible choice will be accessible to the whole community. Our world-rated natural, cultural and built environments will be managed sensitively to balance development requirements with the vital need to manage our precious natural assets sustainably. We want to see rural Scotland participating fully in the global exchange of ideas and culture, with the right connections to make this happen, including high speed broadband and appropriate transport infrastructure. Rural businesses will make best use of local assets to become more competitive and enterprising".

The Scottish Government's 2011 Spending Review set out six priorities to support this vision, including: developing the rural economy; supporting agriculture to deliver public benefits; building up a world class food and drink industry; empowering rural communities; making best use of Scotland's natural assets; and tackling climate change.

The SRP portfolio supports the delivery of these priorities.

3.1.4 Wider Science Alignment

The RESAS scientific research portfolio operates within the broader UK strategic science funding environment. The Research Strategy points out that in addition to working with UK Research Councils, Defra and other UK and EU networks to co-ordinate and ensure best use of research funding and to maximise the value of Scottish Government research investment, the portfolio is aligned with other programmes such as the Living with Environmental Change partnership ( LWEC), led by the Natural Environment Research Council ( NERC) and the UK Global Food Security programme, led by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council ( BBSRC).

3.2 Strategic Research Portfolio Objectives and Structure

There were three strategic priorities for the SRP 2011-2016:

  • Supporting policy and practice;
  • Supporting innovation and the economy; and
  • Scientific resilience.

These were underpinned by two further supporting priorities:

  • Scientific excellence; and
  • Collaboration and multidisciplinary working.

To deliver these objectives, the strategic research portfolio supported:

  • Applied research to address current and emerging challenges (e.g. climate change, food security, natural resource scarcity), to meet short and medium term policy needs and to enhance productivity and economic growth (with a particular focus on agriculture, the food and drink industry and animal life sciences);
  • Longer-term strategic research to understand change and enhance resilience to future threats (e.g. plant and animal disease);
  • Maintenance of critical infrastructure and research assets including facilities, collections and databases; and
  • Development of future research capacity and capability (e.g. funding PhDs and post-doctoral opportunities).

These strategic priorities were delivered through a wide portfolio of research activity, summarised in Figure 3.1 below, comprising:

  • Two five year multi-disciplinary programmes of strategic research -environmental change and food, land and people;
  • Three "policy-facing" Centres of Expertise covering climate change, animal disease and water;
  • Two "industry-facing" Strategic Partnerships focused on animal science and food and drink;
  • Investment in underpinning capacity to support Scotland's strategic rural and environmental science base.

The area of specific focus for this study is the Strategic Programmes (containing two streams - Environmental Change and Food, Land and People), alongside the investment in underpinning capacity provided to the MRPs. The funding and resources devoted to these areas are described in Section 4.2.

Figure 3.1: Strategic Research Portfolio 2011-2016 - Component Parts

Figure 3.1: Strategic Research Portfolio 2011-2016 - Component Parts

Source: Scottish Government Rural Affairs and the Environment Strategic Research Strategy 2011 - 2016

3.2.1 Strategic Programmes

The Strategic Research Programmes were intended to provide evidence to inform policy through collaboration across scientific disciplines and between Main Research Providers ( MRPs), as well as through partnership working with other UK funders of research. The Programme Research was structured into eight research themes across the two programmes, shown in Figure 3.1 above [6] :

  • Environmental Change (Local Responses to Global Change)
    • Theme 1: Ecosystem Services
    • Theme 2: Strong and resilient sources and supply chains for water and energy (Water and Renewable Energy)
    • Theme 3: Technologies and management tools to deliver greater benefits from rural land use and increased resilience to change (Land Use)
    • Theme 4: A rural economy resilient to global and local change (Economic Adaptation)
  • Food, Land and People (Optimising the Potential of Scotland's natural assets)
    • Theme 5: Efficient and resilient supply chains for food (Food)
    • Theme 6: Animal/plant health and disease and animal welfare (Health and Welfare)
    • Theme 7: Healthy safe diets (Diet and Health)
    • Theme 8: Vibrant rural communities (Rural Communities)

3.2.2 Underpinning Capacity

RESAS funding to underpin capacity covered [7] :

  • Advice - ensuring that an appropriate level of advice, guidance and background information was provided to policy;
  • Seedcorn - designed to enable investment in new science, e.g. PhD studentships and investment in more speculative science;
  • Platform - promoting scientific and financial sustainability, for example by assisting a Main Research Provider to accept research grants from a funder at less than full economic price; and
  • Services - discrete activities that maintain key collections or attributes of the Scottish science base recognised as of national or international importance. This includes:
    • Maintenance of key long-term data sets of national significance;
    • Maintenance of potato germplasm collections;
    • Maintenance of Rubus (Raspberry) and Ribes (Blackcurrant) high health stock collections;
    • Maintenance and development of the barley collection;
    • Provision of Biomathematical & Statistical services;
    • Maintenance of pathogen and pest collections;
    • Maintenance of the National Soils Archive;
    • Maintenance and operation of a Scottish Soils Database and Website;
    • Maintenance of a responsive and reactive capacity to develop diagnostic tests.

3.3 The Main Research Providers

The research portfolio described above is largely carried out by the Scottish Government's Main Research Providers ( MRPs):

  • Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland ( BioSS), which is part of the James Hutton Institute and provides support and research to the other MRPs;
  • The James Hutton Institute ( JHI);
  • The Moredun Research Institute ( MRI);
  • The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health ( RINH), which is part of the University of Aberdeen;
  • Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh ( RBGE); and
  • Scotland's Rural College ( SRUC).

3.3.1 Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland

Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland undertakes research, consultancy and training in mathematics and statistics as applied to agriculture, the environment, food and health [8] . In terms of its governance, BioSS is formally a part of the James Hutton Institute. BioSS employs over 30 people distributed across its five locations.

3.3.2 The James Hutton Institute

The James Hutton Institute was formed in 2011 with the merger of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and Scottish Crop Research Institute. Today, the James Hutton Institute is comprised of its research functions and a commercial subsidiary, James Hutton Limited, which provides consultancy and analytical services for research and commercial purposes.

The organisation combines strengths in crops, soils, land use and environmental research to work towards making major, new contributions to the understanding of key global issues, such as food, energy and environmental security, and delivering evidence-based solutions to these global challenges.

3.3.3 The Moredun Research Institute

The Moredun Group was established in 1920 as the Animal Diseases Research Association by farmers dedicated to improving the health of their livestock. [9] Moredun continues to undertake scientific research to improve animal health and welfare through the prevention and control of infectious diseases of livestock.

In particular, research is focused on achieving a greater understanding of disease pathogenesis, developing diagnostic tests and the creation of novel vaccines. The commercial scientific arm of the organisation, Moredun Scientific, provides contract research and biosafety testing services supporting the animal health, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

3.3.4 The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health

The Rowett Institute is part of Aberdeen University's School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, focussing on nutrition and human health and also on animal health and nutrition [10] . Scottish Government funded research at the Institute aims to address issues such as food inequalities, food security and obesity, as well as the sustainable development of Scotland's food industry.

3.3.5 Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a Non Departmental Public Body ( NDPB) sponsored and supported through Grant-in-Aid by the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate ( ENFOR) [11] .

Its mission is "to explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future". It works to conserve plant biodiversity in the face of global environmental change and mass extinction; provide baseline botanical data and; understand the evolutionary processes that have given rise to the botanical diversity that exists.

3.3.6 Scotland's Rural College

Scotland's Rural College was formed in 2012 from the merger of Barony, Elmwood and Oatridge College and the Scottish Agricultural College ( SAC). It delivers comprehensive skills, education and business support for Scotland's land-based industries, through a focus on research, education and consultancy [12] .

SRUC's research centres and teams are based in seven locations across Scotland including sites in Inverness, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Ayr. Research at SRUC is focused on Animal & Veterinary Sciences, Crops & Soils, Land Economy & Environment and Future Farming Systems.


Email: Eilidh Totten,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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