Authors: Andrew Westby, Gillian Summers, Linden Kemkaran

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) is delighted to announce that it has been granted an award from Research England’s ‘Expanding Excellence in England’ (E3) Fund to increase its research on food and nutrition security. Through a highly competitive process, the E3 fund aims to support the strategic expansion of excellent research units and departments in Higher Education Institutions across England. 

Using this new investment, NRI will implement a Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (FaNSI) to expand its research capacity with a specific focus on addressing climate change, food loss and waste, sustainable agricultural intensification and food systems for nutrition.

1.FaNSI Cooking chapatis Ntope J de Bruyn 750

Universities and Science Minister, Chris Skidmore, said: “Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and conquering new innovations are what our universities are known for the world over. This programme led by the University of Greenwich will consider how to improve food supply and nutrition in developing countries. The Expanding Excellence in England Fund will support projects throughout England to master new and developing areas of research and industry. Made possible through our record R&D spend delivered by our modern Industrial Strategy, the investment will support researchers to develop solutions and opportunities for UK researchers and businesses.”

Professor Andrew Westby, Director of NRI said, “This funding from Research England is transformational in terms of increasing NRI’s capacity to contribute to food and nutrition security, especially in Africa. Working with our partners, we look forward to undertaking high-quality research, with outcomes that improve people’s lives.”

‘Food and nutrition security’ is all about ensuring that people have enough safe and nutritious food. Today, approximately 800 million people worldwide are food insecure, and the food systems responsible for feeding a growing population are increasingly affected by a range of factors including climate change, conflict, and pests and diseases. New knowledge is required to ensure nutritious food for everyone whilst adapting to these and other global challenges.

NRI, which is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary, brings together natural and social scientists to carry out excellent-quality interdisciplinary research, that makes a significant contribution to agricultural research for development. NRI has an unrivalled reputation for practical application of its findings across the developing world.

3.FaNSI Market Dar es Salaam J de Bruyn 750With E3 funding, NRI will use an interdisciplinary ‘food systems approach’ to address food and nutrition security, which takes into account the complex interactions embedded in global food and nutrition. At the same time, NRI will build on its Development Programmes, the institute’s thematic areas of work which respond to significant global challenges, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The E3 investment will fund a total of 20 full-time academic staff at levels between Research Fellow and Professor, two Professional Services staff, and at least 18 PhD studentships.

NRI will benefit from an enlarged and refurbished greenhouse facility on site in Medway, allowing scientists to undertake growth experiments under different environmental conditions, complementing the existing quarantine greenhouse facilities. This will support work on agroecology and on crop disease management.

Internally, existing space will be transformed into a food innovation facility providing state-of-the-art equipment to support innovations in food processing and value addition. A new, fully equipped plant ecology laboratory will be established.
Winning the grant from the E3 Fund means that NRI can now build on existing collaborations with partners in Africa and establish new ones. Current partners include the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, and Bayero University in Nigeria, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Malawi, the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, and Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania.

5.FaNSI Watermelons Chibumagwa J de Bruyn 750NRI’s research excellence is primarily demonstrated by the positive impact that its work has on the livelihoods of poor people in developing countries. E3 funding ensures that NRI builds on past successes while continuing to be a major contributor to global food security.

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Read also: the University of Greenwich press release.

Notes to editors:

  • Across the UK, the Government is providing the biggest boost to research and development funding in UK history, as part of the ambition to raise the level of R&D funding to 2.4% of GDP by 2027
  • This investment comes as part of the Expanding Excellence in England Fund supporting England’s world-leading universities to shape new innovations in our economy and provide the skills to support the highly skilled jobs of the future.