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Major Investment in Scottish Centres of Expertise to Combat Agri-Environment Challenges

Major Investment in Scottish Centres of Expertise to Combat Agri-Environment Challenges

Centres of Expertise at the forefront of providing vital research on the challenges facing the environment, agriculture and rural economies, have been awarded multi-million pound contracts by the Scottish Government as announced by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Royal Highland Show on 24th June 2022.

Over £35 million pounds has been secured to deliver scientific support, research and advice on key issues affecting the climate, water, animal disease outbreaks and rural communities.

The 5-year investment package will be split between the Centres specialising in climate research ClimateXChange (CXC), the Centre of Expertise for waters (CREW), the Centre for animal disease outbreaks (EPIC) and SEFARI Gateway which leads on knowledge exchange and innovation. This investment will see SEFARI Gateway formally become a Centre of Expertise alongside CXC, CREW, EPIC, and the Plant Heath Centre (PHC).

The ‘Centre of Expertise’ model is unique to Scotland and this continued investment will further strengthen existing partnerships, helping to safeguard against a wide range of issues which affect the rural economy, environment and the communities that depend on it.

Funded by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) the Centres provide an efficient, accessible and coordinated route for government to access scientific expertise, as part of the wider Scottish Government Portfolio. The Portfolio is one of the largest for agri-environment research in the UK and represents a total investment of around £250million (over five years) in strategic research, supporting expert advice and national research resources through partnerships across the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutions (SEFARI), Scottish universities, colleges, and research organisations across Scotland. Investment in the Portfolio ensures that Scotland maintains its position at the very cutting edge of advances in agriculture, natural resources and the environment.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The Scottish Government provides significant funding to our major research institutes to explore issues such as plant and animal health, and food security. In total, we are investing £250 million over the next five years - almost £50 million a year, which will support more than 150 projects.”

“They cover issues which are of central concern to the agriculture sector – such as the resilience of livestock to climate change; how to reduce climate change emissions from farming and livestock; and the way in which anti-microbial resistance and pathogens spread into the food chain, and then into humans.”

“The support confirms our determination – in a tough financial climate – to ensure that Scotland continues to make an important contribution to research on agriculture and the environment, contributing to the success and sustainability of our farming and food sectors.”

The Centres of Expertise draw upon the wide ranging, cutting-edge research expertise available from the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes (SEFARI), Scottish universities, colleges, research organisations across Scotland, and also their wider UK and international networks. 

Each bespoke centre delivers policy-relevant evidence with impact, and have their own style, leadership & governance - allowing the flexibility needed to able to deliver ‘the right information at the right time in the right manner’.

ClimateXChange (CXC) provides independent advice, research and analysis to support the Scottish Government as it develops and implements policies for a net-zero, climate-resilient future. The Centre draws on expertise across energy, land-use, transport, climate resilience, business and behavioural science to provide evidence for several Scottish Government policies and strategies, including the Programme for Government, the recent Heat in Buildings Strategy, the Climate Change Plan update and a ‘Green Recovery’.

The Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), is a partnership between the James Hutton Institute, Scottish Universities and Research Institutes, that delivers evidence in support of policies which protect and improve the water environment, control pollution and water abstractions, manage flooding and drought risk, assess climate impacts and provide safe drinking water. CREW also provides advice on how best to engage communities, address our urban water challenges, and enhance Scotland’s journey towards a net-zero circular economy.

The Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks, (EPIC), is a consortium of six Scottish research institutions, including both of the country’s veterinary schools, working to improve livestock health by advising the Scottish Government on the surveillance and control of animal diseases. EPIC is ready and prepared to respond to incursions of notifiable diseases which would severely impact on industry. EPIC researchers are currently advising on the ongoing Avian Influenza outbreaks in the UK and working to address the threat to Scotland of African Swine Fever as this disease spreads into Western Europe.

The Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Centre of Expertise (SEFARI Gateway) increases the visibility of, and access to, research and expertise across the Portfolio - further strengthening the Portfolio’s knowledge networks which expand beyond Scotland and the UK. Gateway works to enhance understanding and develop project partnerships to answer knowledge needs, promote innovation and best practice, and inform policy development. In becoming a Centre of Expertise, Gateway will also expand their training opportunities and increase strategic foresighting for emerging needs, enabling researchers and the Scottish Government to be better placed to respond now and in the future.

The fifth (and already commissioned) Centre of Expertise, the Plant Health Centre (PHC), is headed by the James Hutton Institute and brings together the different plant sectors (forestry, horticulture, natural environment and agriculture) to co-ordinate plant health knowledge across Scotland.



The five Centres of Expertise are: ClimateXChange (CXC); the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW); EPIC, the Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks; the Plant Health Centre (PHC); and the Centre for Knowledge Exchange and Innovation (SEFARI Gateway, formally known as CKEI). The Scottish Government (RESAS) is also planning to commission a new, sixth, Centre of Expertise on Biodiversity.

Further information on the Centres of Expertise and examples of their work can be found in the following resources:

  • Centres of Expertise Booklet
  • Centre of Expertise Video
  • Centres of Expertise: Maximizing Impact through Collaboration Blog
  • Panel Discussion on ‘Lessons from High Impact Research – the Scottish Centres of Expertise Model’ held at COP26.

SEFARI, the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes, is a consortium of six globally renowned research institutes namely: Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, The James Hutton Institute, Moredun Research Institute, The Rowett Institute, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College. As SEFARI, these institutes deliver the Scottish Government funded Strategic Research Programme, which addresses key mid to longer-term challenges to Scotland’s environment, agriculture, land use, food and rural communities.

SEFARI and the Centres of Expertise are partners in the wider Scottish Government Portfolio. The Portfolio also underpins Scotland’s research infrastructure, supports investment in the next generation of scientists, and helps generate new partnerships with stakeholders across Scotland, UK and the world. Collectively, the portfolio maximises the impact of Scotland's research and expertise within the UK and beyond.

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