Transformative new interdisciplinary programme to drive food system change

A new cutting-edge  food research programme which brings together world-leading researchers from institutions across Ireland and the UK to tackle food system transformation has been launched. 

The Co-Centre for Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems (SUREFOOD) will work closely with government and industry groups, to deliver innovative solutions to drive societal and political change in the transition to climate neutrality by 2050. 

Professor Aedín Cassidy, Co-Director of the co-centre and Director for Interdisciplinary Research at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, welcomed the announcement in Dublin recently: “This exciting announcement has come at a crucial time with our existing food systems facing a wide range of challenges. In today’s society, a tenth of our population is undernourished while 25% are overweight, with over a third of the world’s population unable afford to eat a healthy diet. 

The John Innes Centre forms part of this interdisciplinary team that aims to accelerate radical transitions towards a more environmentally and economically sustainable and transparent agri-food sector. 

As part of this programme the John Innes Centre’s Professor Cathie Martin FRS will lead a project looking at the health benefits of potatoes with different coloured flesh.  

“I am delighted that we will be able to work closely with UK and Irish colleagues who share a passion for transforming our food system for health and sustainability,” said Professor Martin, who will also collaborate with Professor Cassidy to develop gene-editing methods for commercial potato varieties. 

Professor Paul Nicholson, from the John Innes Centre, will work on a project looking at developing wheat with resistance to the devastating fungal pathogen fusarium.  

Delivering on the four missions of the Irish Government’s Food Vision 2030, and the six priorities within the Northern Ireland Food Strategy Framework, the co-centre will develop innovative solutions to accelerate radical transitions towards a more environmentally and economically sustainable and transparent agri-food sector. 

The new co-centre brings together research expertise in food safety, production, nutrition, plant and animal science, behavioural change, data science, food system governance, and the political process of food system transformation. 

It is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and industry. 

The John Innes Centre has been awarded £1.8m by UKRI over six years for its role in the programme which has been awarded £27.4m in total. 

It will be managed jointly by Queen’s University Belfast and University College Dublin (UCD), working closely with the University of Sheffield which will lead on the integrated UKRI research programme. 

The interdisciplinary team aims to create a vibrant, sustainable co-centre leading the way in transforming food systems, and delivering economic and environmental benefits to society. It will transform existing food systems, impacting everything from production to policy and from health to society through its research and outreach activities. 


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