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

The strategy behind the Scottish Government's Rural Affairs and the Enviroment Strategic Research 2011-2016

2. The Strategic Context

The SRP supports delivery of the objectives of the Rural and Environment portfolio and is situated within the broader policy and economic context for Scotland, including the Government Economic Strategy and Science for Scotland.

2.1 Rural Affairs and Environment Objectives

Our Rural Future published in 2011 sets 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 Spending Review 2011 highlights the underpinning, inter-related priorities that support achievement of the 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;
  • Tackling climate change.

The research portfolio supports effective delivery of these priorities.

2.2 Government's Economic Strategy

In September 2011, the Scottish Government refreshed its Government's Economic Strategy (GES). The fundamental principles of the approach remain, which are to ensure that the Government's resources and policies are focused on the achievement of a more successful Scotland, with opportunities for all to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

The Government Economic Strategy identifies six strategic priorities to accelerate recovery, drive sustainable economic growth and develop a more resilient and adaptable economy. It places a particular focus on a number of growth sectors identified as having high-growth potential, the capacity to be internationally successful due to existing comparative advantages or through the potential to capitalise on Scotland's unique natural assets. The GES seeks to build up these growth sectors to maximise value added and create high quality and sustainable jobs.

The Strategic Research Portfolio supports a number of the growth sectors including:

  • Food and Drink (including agriculture) through funding a strategic partnership on food and drink;
  • Life Sciences through funding a strategic partnership on animal science and wider support for plant and animal life science.

2.3 Science for Scotland

The wider importance of science to sustainable economic growth is highlighted in Science for Scotland which sets out Scottish Government's vision for 'a nation of world-class scientific achievement, a magnet for talent and for investment, a powerhouse of technology, innovation and enterprise, increasing sustainable economic growth.'

Commitments in Science for Scotland supported through the research portfolio include those to:

  • Build on the success of research pooling to promote inter-disciplinary collaboration - through funding a multi-disciplinary and cross-MRP strategic research programme and through the MRP-University collaborations established to deliver three Centres of Expertise and two Strategic Partnerships;
  • Ensure Scotland is well positioned to take advantage of emerging science-based market opportunities - through continued investment in the Scottish science base and establishing Strategic Partnerships in key growth sectors;
  • Enhance links with the UK Government, Research Councils and with the EU - through alignment of the Strategic Research Programmes with two UK Government and Research Council partnerships (see below).

2.4 UK and Wider Science Alignment

The RESAS scientific research portfolio also operates within the broader UK strategic science funding environment. 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 SG's research investment, the portfolio is strategically aligned with 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).

Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) is a partnership of twenty one public sector organisations that fund, carry out and use environmental research and observations. Partners include the UK research councils, UK government departments with environmental responsibilities, devolved administrations and government agencies. Its purpose is to ensure that decision makers in government, business and society have the knowledge, foresight and tools to mitigate, adapt to and benefit from environmental change.

The UK Global Food Security (GFS) programme involves the UK's main public funders of food-related research and training working together to meet the challenge of providing the world's growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of good quality food from less land and with lower inputs.

2.5 Public Funding for RAE Research

The Scottish Government has a long history of investment in agricultural, biological and environmental research to deliver public benefit. This includes funding policy-relevant and applied research that would not be funded through the market. The SRP funds short and long-term scientific research to inform the work of government and its advisory bodies in policy development and implementation. It also helps maintain Scottish-based scientific capability of international standard at the Government's Main (RAE) Research Providers (MRPs), adapting and evolving the infrastructure and skills base to meet current priorities and future challenges.

Government funded agricultural, biological and environmental strategic research in Scotland has been historically delivered by the Main Research Providers funded through grant-in-aid. In 2005 there was a move away from grant in aid funding with the introduction of commissioned programmes of research delivered by the MRPs working in collaboration with each other and, more recently, with other providers.

The current strategy continues the broad direction of travel set out in earlier strategies and builds on the action points and principles in the 2005-10 strategy including:

  • A focus on policy-relevant and applied research;
  • An emphasis on knowledge exchange;
  • Opening up a proportion of funds to competition;
  • Supporting closer links between the Main Research Providers and the university sector.

A summary of progress against the action points set out in the previous strategy is attached at Annex 4. Other key changes incorporated into the 2011-16 Strategic Research Programme include:

  • Development of 2 Programmes, each consisting of 4 Themes encapsulating the outcomes the research is intended to achieve and delivered by the MRPs working in partnership;
  • The appointment of 2 Programme Advisors to co-ordinate activity across the two programmes, links with Scottish Government and engagement with the UK level research programmes;
  • The introduction of Centres of Expertise (CoEs) and Strategic Partnerships (SPs) to enhance collaboration between the MRPs and the University sector, to broaden the supply base and to strengthen the flow of research from basic (university) research through applied research into policy and practice (via CoEs) and industry (via SPs).


Email: Scott Boyd

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