£23.5m for biosciences

Professor Jamie Newbold speaking to Education Minister Jane Hutt after the announcement

Professor Jamie Newbold speaking to Education Minister Jane Hutt after the announcement

21 July 2008

Monday 21 July, 2008
University welcomes £23.5m investment

Aberystwyth University has welcomed the announcement by Education Minister Jane Hutt that its new world-class bioscience centre is to receive £23.5 million from the Welsh Assembly Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

Ms Hutt made the announcement at a Press Conference on the University's stand at the Royal Welsh Show on Monday 21 July.

The award ensures that IBERS – the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences - will make a significant contribution towards solving some of the world's major environmental problems as well as to the economy and research in Wales.

The funding will provide new research and teaching facilities at the University's Penglais campus and at Gogerddan along with the creation of scientific and management posts, and forms part of a five year £55m investment programme.

“This announcement is a powerful vote of confidence in our vision, and is in addition to a significant investment by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council,” said Aberystwyth University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Noel Lloyd.

“We are assembling one the largest teams of scientists and support staff working in this field in Europe. They already have an international reputation and this award will strengthen that reputation further.

“Through our Alliance in Biological and Environmental Sciences with Bangor University we are creating centres of excellence in research and innovation that will lead the food and biotechnology industries into a more secure and sustainable future.”

Announcing the funding Jane Hutt said: “Living with climate change, renewable energy, global food security and plant and animal diseases are the grand challenges for the 21st century.  They impact globally and locally on our health and well being.  This investment by the Assembly Government and the Research Council will help us understand and tackle those grand challenges. 

“This development offers a major opportunity to Wales to create research excellence in areas of importance to Wales.  It will help raise Wales’ reputation as a place where research of real excellence and relevance can happen and has a real and long term impact on science, society and the economy. 

“The merger of IGER into Aberystwyth University and the strategic collaboration with Bangor University provides a unique opportunity to create internationally competitive strategic research and development capacity in Wales.  As we set out in One Wales, we are committed to develop and support proposals for joint working and inter-University agreements across Wales.  This investment in a new national research centre is a further step in our delivery of One Wales.” 

IBERS vision is to develop scientific research that will have practical applications in addressing major challenges such as  climate change, food and fuel security and animal and plant diseases. It also provides training for more than 1,000 undergraduate and research students.

“The support of WAG and HEFCW will help us develop one of the largest and most vibrant centres for agriculture and environmental research in the world, with a strong focus on purposefully translating discovery research into practice,” said IBERS Director, Wayne Powell.

“We are now very well placed to attract more world class scientists to Wales and, through the Institute’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to develop and inspire our own home grown talent.”

Some of the research projects already underway show how they will help agriculture and rural areas adapt to the future:
•        Research into animal feeds that will lead to less harmful methane emissions and improve meat quality.
•        New kits that enable farmers to test their own animals for diseases such as liver fluke.
•        Production of fuels from non-food crops, including bio-ethanol from rye-grass, without affecting global food production.
•        New climate resilient strains of grasses and cereals.

IBERS was created earlier this year through the merger of the former Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) into Aberystwyth University. At the same time Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities signed a Strategic Alliance in Biological and Environmental Sciences. Together the two Universities will undertake fundamental bioscience research and work on managing terrestrial and coastal ecosystems to enable adaptation to climate change.

An alliance for the future
Professor Merfyn Jones, Vice-chancellor of Bangor University, said;
“We are delighted with today’s announcement and look forward to working with Aberystwyth University on achieving the vision encapsulated in our Alliance. Together we can ensure that Wales leads the world in environmental and biological sciences.”

Maintaining excellence
Steve Visscher, Interim Chief Executive, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences and Biosciences Research Council, said;
"The new Alliance formed by merging the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research into Aberystwyth University, and the new links with Bangor, brings together individually strong track records in bioscience, environmental and land-based research.  Working together the two institutions can combine these strengths and thrive as the new grouping.  The funding announced today is excellent news and will strengthen the UK capacity to address the challenges being tackled through the Living with Environmental Change Programme. It places environmental and land-based science in Wales on a sustainable footing for the future as well as ensuring that world-class research is translated into global economic and social benefits."