There has been a shift in global opinion away from austerity and towards government intervention to support growth. However, there is no consensus as to the appropriate level of intervention required from Government and what steps should be taken in collaboration with industry.
PA Consulting has produced the following roundtable recommendations for government:
1. Recognise that agri-science is a crucial UK industry with remarkable economic potential. Publicly acclaim its contribution to the economy and the security of food supply and affirm its needs.
2. Launch a major strategy for UK agri-science similar to that launched for life sciences in 2011, which should be industry-led, ambitious about the growth potential of the sector, target specific sectors and technologies with the most potential for attracting inward investment and exports, and set out a new contract between government and industry to drive investment and growth in agri-science field.
3. Establish a national agri-science council, including ministers, public bodies, the industry, academics, consumers and environmentalists, to develop a national strategy and facilitate a more cohesive value chain.
Support a national agri-science research ‘council’ and an institute along the lines of the ‘Frauhoff’ centres advocated by Hermann Hauser in Cambridge and reflected in the Government’s Catapult centres. The council and institute’s remit would be to:
- Attract inward investment to the UK research base.
- Maximise technology transfer and IP value capture for UK plc.
- Develop UK excellence and leadership in key technologies in which the UK can genuinely play a world-class role.
4. Re-focus research priorities on those areas where the UK has a genuine global lead, attracting the inward investment from the major global agri-science majors, and creating a more joined-up supply chain where UK innovation is brought to the stage where private investment becomes viable. Place more emphasis on applied science, aligning grants with commercial objectives, and stimulating match funding from industry.
5. Campaign for reform of EU agri-science regulation, and for a more positive attitude to innovation among European Commission officials.
6. Address public perceptions about large farms, new agricultural technologies (including GM) and the balance between conservation and competitiveness. Increase awareness of food sources and of security issues.
7. Encourage the development of new metrics that define sustainable intensification, allocate costs to consumption of natural resources and so provide a more reliable framework for public policy.