Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016: highlights

Report highlighting environment and rural economy research outputs, and resulting impact, funded through the programme.

Underpinning Capacity

Investment is also made to support a number of services and collections at the Main Research Providers. This reflects a priority of supporting nationally important capability and resource and ensures the maintenance and accessibility of important data and collections. The skills and capacity at the Main Research Providers are also being supported through the development of new areas of science and leveraging of other funding. Some examples of where this underpinning capacity funding is directed are highlighted below.

Soil Mapping and SE Web

Soils and soil health is of major economic and environmental importance to Scotland. Soils underpin food production, can protect water supplies and make our ecosystems more resilient to environmental change. The James Hutton Institute maintains a large collection of soil data which has been collected across Scotland since 1930, which includes national mapping of Scotland's soils. To increase access to the data over 900 maps have been digitised, at scales ranging from 1:500 to 1:250,000. In addition to the national soil map of Scotland, these maps include a land capability map for agriculture, carbon and peatland maps and land capability for forestry. These digital maps are available through the Scotland's soils webpages, part of Scotland's Environment website, SE Web. This resource has led to the publication of many papers and datasets, including contributions to National Biodiversity Network/Atlas of Living Scotland. Advice has also been supplied to a range of end users such as: Royal Society for Protection of Birds ( RSPB), SEPA, Scottish Water ( SW), and various universities, consultants and estate agents.

Pest and Pathogen Collections

Moredun Research Institute maintains a large collection of pests and microorganisms which cause disease (pathogens), which can be used to better understand the pests and diseases which affect livestock. These collections can be used as a basis for developing tests to diagnose disease, as well as working towards vaccines and alternative control strategies against entrenched livestock diseases. The collections include: bacteria such Chlamydia abortus, which can cause abortions; Campylobacter jejuni a major cause of food poisoning; parasitic worms such as Haemonchus, Teladorsagia and liver fluke; and single-celled parasites such as Cryptosporidium parvum and Toxoplasma gondii. Collections of Toxoplasma gondii have been used to develop genotyping tools to help identify the genetic diversity of pathogens in wildlife, food animals and human populations to help understand disease transmission routes and risks to veterinary and public health.

Commonwealth Potato Collection

The contribution of Scotland's potato crop to our economy is significant: in 2015 the estimated value of the Scottish crop was £167 million. Despite being one of the world's most important food crops the potato remains one of the most vulnerable to disease and changing environmental conditions. The Commonwealth Potato Collection ( CPC) is a potato genebank held in trust by The James Hutton Institute. The collection comprises around 1,500 accessions representing over 86 wild and cultivated potato species. Each accession traces back to a handful of berries or tubers from potato plants in South or Central America, gathered from the wild or obtained from a grower at a market. The purpose of the CPC collection and subsequent duplications is to safeguard genetic diversity and make it available to researchers and breeders. In 2017 seeds from the CPC were lodged at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which were the first deposits of materials originating from a UK institute. This assures the availability of the CPC against natural or human-caused disasters.

Policy and Practice

Scottish Government-funded research contributes to shaping policy by providing a knowledge and evidence base to help inform decisions. Much of the funded research is longer term and strategic, rather than directed to immediate policy needs. However, the expertise and capacity available also means that policy makers can seek advice as and when they need it.


As well as producing briefs and reports to support policy development, a number of SRP researchers sat on committees or were members of advisory groups which can also provide an opportunity to challenge and influence thinking. By 2015-16, there were over 150 representations on government or agency advisory groups by 80 SRP-funded researchers. These include representations at Scottish Government, UK Government, EU and UN levels, and comprise a diverse range such as: IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) working groups, EU European Innovation Partnership focus groups, European Food Safety Authority working groups, the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ( DEFRA) Antimicrobial Resistance coordination group, DEFRA UK Plant Health Forum, the Scottish Food Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage's ( SNH) Science Advisory Committee.



Email: Jenny Watson,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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