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

5. Research Delivery

The 2011-2016 Strategic Research Portfolio is predominantly delivered through Scotland's Main Research Providers who are the sole recipients of funding for the two strategic research programmes and underpinning capacity. The Centres of Expertise and Strategic Partnerships - representing some 15% of the RAE research investment - are delivered through collaborations between the MRPs and university sector.

5.1 The Main Research Providers

Government funded agricultural, biological and environmental strategic research in Scotland has been historically delivered by the Main Research Providers funded through grant-in-aid. The MRPs are a fundamental part of Scotland's science base, enhancing Scotland's reputation for both excellence and relevance in agricultural research in particular and, increasingly, helping to address wider environmental issues. Research institutes differ from universities in undertaking research that is both directed and applied and in enabling the maintenance and evolution of long-term research programmes and capability. These attributes are increasingly important to governments as they respond to the complex challenges facing society.

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 through opening up a proportion of the funding to competition and other suppliers.

All tender proposals for the 2011-16 strategic programmes of research delivered by the MRPs were subject to peer review to assess:

  • Strategic relevance with respect to the policy context, research context and end user's needs;
  • Scientific quality, feasibility and opportunity;
  • Collaboration, co-ordination and networking within and across the Themes, and with scientists in CAMERAS and wider science communities;
  • Knowledge exchange;
  • Finance and value for money;
  • Management procedures, systems and structures.

5.2 Underpinning Capacity

Alongside funding the Main Research Providers to undertake strategic programmes of research, the RAE Research budget also funds underpinning capacity at the research institutes. This investment of around £10 M per annum supports maintenance of long-term data collections of national importance, critical infrastructure and the long-term scientific and financial sustainability of the research institutes.

Examples of some attributes of the science base maintained through 'Underpinning Capacity' include:

  • Building capacity for scientific advice and supporting short-term analytical work in support of advice;
  • Maintenance and enhancement of Scottish based data sets and collections recognised as of national or international importance to the scientific community and to other end users;
    • Unique germplasm collections essential to the research community and to plant breeders;
      • Commonwealth Potato Collection;
      • Raspberry and Blackcurrant high health stock collections;
      • Barley collection;
    • Collections developed over many years that represent a rich resource because of their breadth and diversity and/or the ability to look back over time;
      • Plant and animal pathogen and pest collections requiring long-term maintenance and active regeneration, the continued access to which is essential for the research community;
      • The National Soils Archive - support for both maintaining its physical integrity and also increasing its value to end users;
  • Maintenance of a responsive and reactive capacity;
    • To develop diagnostic tests for new and emerging diseases;
    • To provide Bio-mathematical & Statistical services;
  • Promoting the scientific and financial sustainability of the Scottish science base and of individual institutes;
    • Seedcorn funding to support;
  • Training for PhD students and funding for PhD studentships;
  • More speculative research to develop new techniques and build new capacity in anticipation of future research requirements;
    • 'Platform' funding - supporting institutes to maintain, enhance or develop SG relevant capacity by funding the shortfall between the full economic cost of third party contracts and the actual grant received.


Email: Scott Boyd

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