Environment, natural resources and agriculture research: strategy 2022 to 2027

We fund a multi-million pound portfolio of research on the environment, natural resources and agriculture. This strategy outlines our vision, priorities and mechanisms for funding the next cycle of research which starts in 2022.

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2. Strategic Drivers for the Next Programme

Across the programme as a whole there are three overarching drivers which will play a key role in shaping our priorities and research needs in future years. We expect many of the research projects that we will support over the next funding cycle to support these areas:

  • Global climate and nature crises – Achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions and responding to biodiversity loss are inextricably linked and will fundamentally shape the choices which we face in areas such as land-use, environmental and agricultural policy for decades to come. Changes to our climate and wider environment will also be a key driver of future work on plant and animal health, the management of our natural resources and the economic challenges and opportunities faced by rural communities. Biodiversity loss in particular is a growing problem and Scotland has a key role in combating it, especially in relation to fragile upland ecologies, peatlands and coastal and marine ecosystems.
  • EU exit – The UK's exit from the EU will have a significant impact across the research programme. For example, the UK's future trading relationship with the EU and other countries will change, which will impact on Scottish companies, particularly in agriculture and the food and drink sectors. The future of farming support in Scotland, and the successor to the Common Agricultural Policy, which the Scottish Government will need to design, will also cut across all elements of the research programme.
  • Sustainable economic growth and wellbeing – The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent recovery will have far-reaching consequences for all parts of society. The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, which the Scottish Government established to advise on the recovery from the crisis, emphasised the importance of green growth and maximising the benefits of Scotland's natural capital as part of the recovery.[5] These drivers will impact on all elements of the research programme. Simultaneously there is a growing focus on policy approaches aimed at enhancing wellbeing, of which environmental sustainability is a key element, either in place of or alongside more traditional measures of economic progress. This focus will inform the work across our research programme.

Another key need which has become apparent over the current research cycle is for more responsive and flexible research to reflect changing needs and priorities. Since the last research strategy was published in 2015 many events have occurred which have created new and unforeseen research needs. Some of these are national and global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK's exit from the EU and the Scottish Government's declaration of a global climate emergency. Others are more discrete and impact on specific elements of the programme. Our research programme must be dynamic and capable of adapting to a changing and evolving policy landscape, ensuring that funding can be directed to support new priorities, and where the impact of the investment can be maximised while avoiding unnecessary disruption to the skills, expertise and underpinning capacity residing in research organisations.

The Strategic Advisory Board, which oversees the research programme, published its recommendations for the next cycle of research funding in May 2019. Their report[6] recommended that the research programme needs to evolve in order to remain fit-for-purpose; there should be better alignment with Scottish Government's needs, more flexibility to reposition resource when required, a wider range of research providers, and continued commitment to protect the research capacity and data that are unique to, and essential for, meeting Scottish needs.


Email: helen.m.jones@gov.scot

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