Delivering new science with practical industry benefits

Delivering new science with practical industry benefits

Following a review of its support for post-graduate research projects, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is to reinforce the focus of its £500,000 cross-sector studentship programme, this summer, on delivering new science with practical industry benefits.

A new-look AHDB programme will launch in June 2013 to install students in research institutions/universities by the start of the 2014/15 academic year. Applications will be open to all research institutions.

The initiative will harmonise the application process for the three-to-four-year studentships funded by the levy board’s six divisions – BPEX (pigs), EBLEX (beef and lamb), DairyCo (milk), HGCA (cereals and oilseeds), HDC (horticulture) and Potato Council (potatoes).

The aim is to deliver more value from this post-graduate student programme in terms of useable scientific developments that are relevant to industry priorities, as well as to help develop the next generation of technical experts for the agriculture and horticulture industries.

“Across AHDB, we have historically funded 15-20 studentships per year and will maintain this sort of number but we will be taking a more strategic approach to the type of studentships supported, managing them under one cross-sector, co-ordinated programme that is integrated into our broader R&D objectives,” said chair of the joint studentship programme Kim Matthews, Head of Research and Development for AHDB’s beef and lamb division.

“There is also a common understanding of the cost of a studentship, whatever the sector. It is recognised that the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) rate of £22,418 per year, which includes a student stipend of £13,500, is a fair reflection of the cost of a studentship and where an AHDB division cannot support this level of funding there is an expectation that the applying institution will seek additional funding to meet this cost,” he added.

“We make no apology for saying we’re looking to recruit the cream of the crop, those students with the ability, drive and ambition to bring something special to our industry, not only their talent but also a research project that can really make a difference to our levy payers.

“We’ll be looking for good people and good projects, hopefully guaranteeing a level of quality that will prove a definite asset to the future of UK agriculture and horticulture.”

Students’ progress will be keenly monitored, with regular reporting built into the schedule. To give a flavour of the project pedigree AHDB is looking to support, studentships already being run by the EBLEX and BPEX divisions are:

BPEX – pigs

Project: Detection and identification of pathogens and antibodies in oral fluids of pigs
Research body: University of Newcastle
Dates: October 2012 – September 2015
Project: Climate change adaptation of pig buildings
Research body: Harper Adams University
Dates: April 2012 – April 2015

EBLEX – beef and lamb (partly co-funded with HCC and QMS)

Project: Use of CT-based predictors of meat quality in sheep breeding programmes
Research body: Scottish Rural College (SRUC)
Dates: /strong> November 2011 – October 2014

Project: Identifying digital dermatitis reservoirs in cattle and sheep
Research body: University of Liverpool
Dates: October 2012 – September 2015

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