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SEFARI Gateway Update

SEFARI Gateway Update

In this blog, we thought we’d let you know the latest developments from SEFARI Gateway, as we continue to work together even though we are currently physically apart.

For us, lockdown has really emphasized our love of nature (on daily walks, in the garden or by virtually meeting each other’s pets, now so much a part of the virtual meeting world!). Gateway’s work itself has been intensive. The strengths of our stakeholder partnerships and an adaptable approach to connecting across knowledge networks has hugely benefitted us and provided new ways to work.

The unpreceded COVID-19 health, economic and societal crisis has understandably dominated Gateway’s recent activity.  Gateway, on behalf of the SEFARI Directors Executive, has prepared a report on the huge effort that all institutes and staff have undertaken to help the fight against COVID-19.  As part of this, Gateway has been responding to stakeholder needs both in terms of immediate COVID-19 pressures but also for ongoing strategic work post-COVID-19 and a key advantage has been our ability to rapidly adapt Gateway’s funded programmes to support existing and new partnerships.

Our projects pre COVID-19 restrictions are all progressing, though many have had to naturally move online and adapt timelines depending upon the specific needs of each project, as well as the individual circumstances of project teams or their members.

On our Knowledge Exchange Fellowships:

  • We are continuing to support the work of  the Just Transition [for net zero] Commission as noted in their interim report.
  • With the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) we are summarising key research on greenhouse gas emissions for the sector’s response in tackling climate change.
  • As part of supporting Scotland’s Arctic Policy Framework, we are progressing work with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) on analysis of the strengths and opportunities for innovation through and within food clusters.
  • The eventual easing of lockdown restrictions will also see our Fellowship with Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority move forward and more on that soon.  

For recent Fellowship appointments, we were delighted to announce: Kit McLeod as the SEFARI Fellow for Innovative Monitoring in a joint project with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH); Derek Stewart who will work with Zero Waste Scotland and Circular North East Scotland to identify bioeconomy and circular economy opportunities with potential for the agri-food sector; and Caroline Whitfield and Sharon Flanigan are to undertake a Fellowship with Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society Ltd (SAOS) on the cooperation model, this our first fully co-Fellowship appointment.

Through our Think Tank scheme, we are also partnering in a range of new initiatives and in particular:

  • Supporting and co-convening for HIE-led COVID-19 Food and Drink Sector Think Tank for Scotland's Rural Economy.
  • Working with Scottish Land Commission in developing a Think Tank for the use of spatial data within land use partnerships.

There are many exciting project-partnerships evolving through our Think Tank, Fellowship or Responsive Opportunity schemes and in some cases involving combinations of these. As usual and where relevant we are linking our existing and newly emerging work to ensure that knowledge and evidence contributes as fully as possible to National Outcomes and wherever relevant to the COVID-19 response and the drive for a Green Recovery.

We have also recently launched a collation of online educational resources to assist with home learning and remote education during lockdown and beyond - this project will ultimately showcase across the array of school and family education resources created across SEFARI and this has already opened up new collaborations. Gateway is also actively supporting new educational resources such as diet detectives, through our Responsive Opportunity Fund.

We have also been pleased to add more case studies, blogs and new leading ideas briefings designed to help everyone to readily access SEFARI research. Recent highlights include:

  • Our biannual update on Strategic Programme Progress and its impacts;
  • Our latest Leading Ideas briefing on Strategic Research Programme livestock research;
  • Findings from a Fellowship with Scotland Food and Drink on food chain integrity monitoring capabilities in Scotland;
  • A series of four perspectives on biodiversity and climate action research including Environmental Indicators: showing us the bigger picture as well as case studies on topics such as the Islands Scotland Act (2018) and evidence needs for supporting positive outcomes for small rural and island communities; and on building strategic research and sector connections through events such as Pigs and Poultry – Optimising Production.
  • A wide variety of blogs are also providing both critical research insights and also directly linking the public with resources: including on how Human Nutrition Unit work is adapting to support nutritional health online during COVID-19; a detailed perspective from Lisa Bowden of EPIC on the challenges of modelling pandemics and the potential benefits of adopting a One Health approach; while one of our very recent blogs discusses how SEFARI research is underpinning insights on the health and environmental benefits to be derived from wild vegetables.

Gateway will continue to work online, in virtual space, for the foreseeable future but this has been made all the easier and productive by the strong partnerships that we have across the team and all our stakeholders. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 we feel that these relationships are only becoming stronger and that Scotland’s ability to share information through its knowledge networks will be a crucial benefit as we continue to tackle COVID-19 and its aftermath.

Stay safe everyone and do get in touch if we can help –

Charles, Michelle and Andrew.