In an area with such global significance, Knowledge Exchange to ensure effective dialogue between researchers and stakeholders is extremely important. Key stakeholders include: Industry, Policy Makers, and the General Public.
A key part of our strategy to inform industry about the work we do with potential impact in plant breeding is based on a relationship with NIAB Innovation Farm.
This is an ERDF funded project which provides “an interactive hub linking science and industry, highlighting developments in plant genetics and transferring market-ready innovations into commercial reality.” Collaboration between academics, scientists and industry, brings together field based and glasshouse demonstrations with a programme of themed exhibitions, seminars and workshops. In addition to this, collaboration with individual companies through schemes such as CASE studentships allows us to build long term relationships to the benefit of both parties.
We have made a direct impact on policy in two areas of our research:
International and national agencies are obliged under treaty commitments to promote agrobiodiversity conservation as a basis for food security. This requires more effective strategies for both in situ and ex situ plant conservation. Research based on the expertise of Dr Maxted and Professor Brian Ford-Lloyd in conservation, genomics and policy is providing the foundation for regulatory agencies to improve genetic diversity maintenance and so sustain food security.
Risks of bio-control approaches to aid regulatory policy
Pest management through the use of biocontrol is an increasingly important strategy to reduce our dependence on pesticides. Currently, around 170 species (mainly insects and mites) are in used in augmentative biocontrol with Europe accounting for 75% of the world market. The main method of biocontrol in the UK and Europe involves the release of non-native predators and parasitoids into glasshouses. These species are not intended to establish outdoors. Research by Prof Jeff Bale and colleagues into insect cold-tolerance is providing the basis for European regulatory control of biocontrol agents against glasshouse pests.
We take very seriously our obligation to inform the general public about our research in plant biology, both in schools and to a broader audience. Our work in schools is part of the School of Biosciences’ Outreach programme in which we provide specific resources intended to support teaching of plant biology and plant molecular biology:
We also host events such as “Meet the scientist” at the Birmingham Science Museum ThinkTank http://www.thinktank.ac/ and include plant science in other public engagement fora.