Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016: highlights

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

Industrial Collaborations

Collaborating with industry can stimulate innovation, widen the impact of research investment, lead to enhanced 'on the ground' impacts for businesses and individuals, and increase economic resilience in agricultural industries, the environment and within rural communities. Many of the examples throughout this report have involved collaboration with industry. Several innovative collaborations with industry partners are explored below.

GT Biologics/4D Pharma

GT Biologics Ltd was a Rowett Institute spin out company established to develop new therapeutics based on the use of live bacteria. In 2012 the company secured equity investment from Aquarius Equity Partners and was subsequently partially acquired by 4D Pharma Plc. 4D Pharma has raised over £70 million to fund the product portfolio of the group of companies to build a pharmaceutical company focussed on developing therapeutics from the human gut microbiome. The GT Biologics element of the company has now been renamed as 4D Pharma Research with its base remaining in Aberdeen on the Foresterhill campus of the University of Aberdeen. The work force has continued to grow and the company is actively recruiting research-based positions. The initial portfolio focussed on the research around the gut bacteria ( Roseburia hominis and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron) has been expanded to develop a proprietary technology platform which performs high-throughput screening of novel live biotherapeutic candidates to rationally identify bacteria with potential therapeutic efficacy across multiple disease areas.


LEAF Sustainability Metrics

LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) is the leading UK organisation delivering more sustainable food and farming. 25% of UK fruit and vegetables are grown on LEAF marque accredited businesses. Research in the programme developed sustainability metrics for use by LEAF in their Sustainable Farming Review. This is a management tool which helps farmers to work more sustainably. It has been applied across hundreds of UK farms and is becoming the industry standard, with implications for soil, carbon, water and other natural asset management on farms.

Sustainable Hydropower

Scotland has the ambitious target of generating all electricity from renewable resources by 2020. Hydropower plays a key role in Scotland's renewable energy contributions, generating 12% of Scotland's electricity. In order to meet the 2020 targets it is likely that more renewable energy schemes will need to be developed, with huge potential now being realised for small-scale schemes. Programme researchers investigated how future water flow scenarios may affect Scotland's hydropower generation potential, and how large-scale hydroelectric power schemes affect the water environment and its delivery of other ecosystem services. The work was designed and carried out in collaboration with both hydropower operators and public bodies to support sustainable hydropower development with low environmental impact.

Ground-breaking Worm Vaccine

Parasitic worms can have serious effects on livestock health, welfare and production. Worms can be controlled by drugs, however, resistance to wormers is widespread and reduced productivity due to gut-dwelling parasites is estimated to cost the UK sheep industry over £80 million per year. Barbervax® is the first vaccine in the world against a gut-dwelling parasitic worm of sheep, Barber's pole worm ( Haemonchus contortus).

This worm is the most important roundworm parasite of sheep and goats worldwide (currently it is only a sporadic problem for farmers in the UK, although this is likely to increase due to our warmer and wetter climate favouring survival of the parasite). Following many years of research in Scotland Barbervax® is now on sale in Australia. Results to date are excellent in terms of vaccine uptake and efficacy. Comments from Australian farmers include: "Just awesome results. We are very happy with your vaccine and have been telling anyone who will listen to us about it." "It's a terrific breakthrough for our industry." The vaccine has now been registered as Wirevax(r) in South Africa and an equivalent cattle parasite vaccine is being trialled in South America.

SRP-funded researchers are now extending their expertise gained on the development of Barbervax® to a vaccine against the major gut worm parasite in Scotland, Teladorsagia circumcincta. Patents have been filed for this vaccine, although its likely deployment may be a few years away. Vaccines represent a significant breakthrough in the control of parasitic worms in livestock around the world as there are growing reports of significant resistance to the drugs currently used as frontline treatments.

GHG Emissions from Livestock

Agriculture contributes around 22.8% of Scotland's total GHG emissions. Parasitic worms and flukes which cause several endemic diseases of livestock, such as liver fluke, cost the industry c. £84 million per year and result in a significant increase in GHG emissions. Studies demonstrated that parasitised lambs produce 10% more GHGs than uninfected or effectively treated lambs. This research highlights that disease management can have an impact in addressing agricultural GHG emissions. This information has been communicated to the farming industry at a range of events.

Common Interest Groups for Food and Drink SMEs

Small and medium enterprises ( SMEs) dominate Scotland's food and drink sector. Many of these lack the capacity to individually engage with research. Interface Food and Drink, Scotland Food and Drink and the Food and Drink Federation have set up a number of Common Interest Groups, bringing together groups of companies to share information and identify areas of common opportunity. SRP-funded researchers have provided advice and information to these groups, enabling research outputs to be applied by industry. Fifteen have now been set up, including the Scottish Rapeseed Oil Group, who were advised on sustainable and efficient approaches to strain selection, crop production and product quality. In the Reformulation Group several companies are being advised on the use of alternative ingredients to replace sugar, fat and salt whilst maintaining structure and improving health qualities. The Scottish Venison Partnership and Scottish Venison Producers Group have been provided with research data on husbandry, optimal diet and disease management while they work towards increasing the market share of wild and farmed venison.


Email: Jenny Watson,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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