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SCOTLAND: Finnie announces publication of draft research strategy

July 22, 2004 12:00 AM

A draft strategy to strengthen Scotland's leading contribution to agricultural, biological and environmental research has been published.

Following a review of research supported by the Executive's Agricultural and Biological Research Group, the draft strategy identifies future research programme areas and proposes new structures to strengthen Scotland's significant science base.

Objectives defined include:

Environment and Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie said:

"Scotland has great strengths in biological, agricultural and environmental research and has made a major contribution to the development of these scientific areas. A significant part of that research capability has been funded by the Scottish Executive.

"We invested nearly £50 million this year to enhance our science base, to give Scottish agriculture a competitive edge and protect our environment.

"We cannot afford to be complacent and this draft strategy provides the basis for further development of our research base.

"Over the last five years the proportion of supported research addressing Scottish Executive priorities has more than doubled.

"More can be done to ensure the work done in our leading research institutes and academic bodies meets the needs of our agricultural industries and rural economy.

"We want to focus funding on excellent research in priority areas including profitable and sustainable plant and animal agriculture; land use and rural stewardship and impacts on human health.

"Additionally we believe there is need for targeted support to respond to climate change, protect Scottish biodiversity and enhance the social and economic sustainability of rural Scotland.

"In order to achieve these objectives we must recognise that research is not carried out in isolation.

"We want to encourage greater collaboration between research providers to drive up standards and achieve greater efficiency and critical mass.

"In addition we must ensure that publicly supported research is made as widely available as possible to end-users. We propose to increase the amount of funding available through a separate funding stream to support knowledge and technology transfer, as well as ensuring that researchers have access to support from other sources.

"This draft strategy aims to provide the underpinning scientific knowledge essential to securing a high quality of life through sensitive stewardship and sustainable development of our natural resources.

"I would encourage all those with an interest in building on our excellent science base, and in exploiting the outcomes of that research, to participate in this important consultation."

SEERAD provides nearly £50 million annually of funding towards a range of agricultural and related biological and environmental science.

A large proportion of the research is carried out by the Scottish Agricultural and Biological Research Institutes, the Scottish Agricultural College and the RBGE.

More information on the present research programme can be found at: www.scotland.gov.uk/abrg.

The Executive and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council invested £350 million in science and research in Scotland in 2003/04.

The review of the research strategy, undertaken over the past year, aimed to identify strengths and weaknesses in the research programme, to identify scientific opportunities, consider the funding mechanisms, the effectiveness in providing value for money and the potential benefits of closer links with other research organisations.

Comments have been invited from around 700 interested organisations, including the Research Institutes, other research funders and providers, Government Departments etc.

Responses to the consultation should be sent to Linda Saunderson, Room 435, ABRG, SEERAD, Pentland House, 47 Robb's Loan, Edinburgh EH14 1TY, by August 31, 2004.

The final Research Strategy document will be published in the autumn.