Resilience of the UK Food System in a global context - Programme Coordination

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Geography - SoGE


Recent years have seen a significant interest in global and UK food security in policy, science and business circles, and in the more general press. Heightened by the 2007/08 food price crisis this is further driven by growing
concerns about increasingly unsustainable dietary patterns. These have given rise to a growing number of overweight and obese people worldwide, while hunger and under-nutrition continues to be a problem, even in the
UK. Changes in climate and associated weather extremes, in trade arrangements, and the continued unsustainability of many agricultural and fisheries production systems, and further stresses related to dietary changes are increasing the vulnerability of the overall food system. This concern has led to the growing awareness of the need to increase resilience of our food system to such stresses. The interest is however also driven by recognition of the need to reduce negative outcomes of the food system activities (from producing to consuming food) for the environment, and for health and other socioeconomic parameters. These issues are set against the need to maintain vibrant, competitive agri-food enterprises (and their associated livelihoods) which underpin the food system.

A set of research projects is being funded as part of the £14.5 million GFS Food System Resilience Programme which, collectively, will provide policy makers and other stakeholders with information about how they can improve the
resilience of the UK food system. Three key components are required to maximize the impact of the GFS Resilience Programme: (i) mutual awareness-raising and integration of individual projects to add value to each other and establish the intellectual identity of the Programme by deriving new insights from the various projects can help to gain a better understanding of overall resilience building; (ii) stakeholder engagement and matching of needs to GFS
outputs; and (iii) communications within the Programme and with broader communities. All three will depend on effective management and coordination which is proposed in three phases: Planning (October 2016-early 2017); Delivery (early 2017-September 2021); Building Legacy (October 2019-September 2021).

Technical Summary

The UK food system needs to be resilient to changes in the varied socioeconomic and environmental parameters which affect it. Against this background, the £14.5 million GFS Food System Resilience Programme is addressing three main areas:
1. Optimising the productivity, resilience and sustainability of agricultural systems and landscapes
2. Optimising resilience of food supply chains both locally and globally
3. Influencing food choice for health, sustainability and resilience at the individual and household level.

A coordination unit across projects is tasked to synthesize research findings and develop outreach and engagement activities with stakeholders in the food sector. An initial workshop with Phase I PIs in early 2017 will map projects against thematic areas of the GFS Programme and agree on a framework for results synthesis as well as outreach activities. In addition, the workshop will review projects 'stakeholder engagement plans, and map out known stakeholders ' information needs across the projects. The outcome of these exercises will be a draft map of stakeholders and their information needs, a draft work program to synthesise project findings into joint research outputs and
a draft communications strategy to form the basis of ongoing communications activity through the Programme. A mid-term review will help to bring synthesis results across projects together against the earlier-agreed food system framework, and assess stakeholder engagement and impact, with special emphasis on the KE fund and options for stakeholder action. A final PI workshop will finalise the synthesis of project outputs in the context of the food systems resilience and in relation to the conceptual framework for presenting to a stakeholder workshop with the view of determining future research needs and impact pathways regarding implementation options for food system actors.

Planned Impact

The overall aim of the GFS Food System Resilience Programme is to provide the evidence base to underpin the UK 's strategic approach to food security and create a more resource efficient and resilient food system in a changing world
by supporting interdisciplinary research. Impacts to assist are therefore envisioned to help businesses, policy and civil society in a number of ways, via a process of translation of research findings into tangible actions for stakeholders. This needs to be a joint process based on stakeholder fora to discuss options:

1. Existing businesses (via either increased profits or reduced costs or both): examples include more drought resistant farming systems; better streamlined procedures for energy and water use in food processing reducing costs and
bringing environmental benefits; more effective marketing of healthier food products.
2. New businesses (i.e. start-ups and spin-outs): examples include local start-ups for decentralised food production, processing and manufacture (also drawing on outputs from the ESPRC/ESRC Re-Distributed Manufacturing
3. The UK generally through inward investment (i.e. new money into the UK): examples include the potential for increased foreign investment in agri-food as weather extremes increase in other parts of the world. (The UK Kingdom is currently the world's fourth largest recipient of foreign direct investment, with ca. 14% being in food and drink.)
4. Public policy makers: examples include information for agri-food, food safety, public health and trade at local and national levels.
5. Public service providers: examples include better agri-food aspects of environmental protection, health care, waste management and water supply.


10 25 50
Description An updated understanding of resilience for food system analyses, and a comparative analysis between UK and Australia.
The 3 notions of resilience being robustness, recovery and reorientation.
The 4 key Qs being Resilience of what, to what, for whom and for what time period.
Exploitation Route Cross-checking their own framings of resilience.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description In further briefings to KTN Food Sector, defra, Scot Gov, Welsh Gov and NI.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Description GFS-Food System Resilience joint workshop with Defra on 5 February 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The programme coordination team hosted a joint workshop with Defra on 5 February 2018 to promote the objectives of the programme and build a dialogue with policy makers and analysts across Whitehall. Over 50 civil servants from across Whitehall participated in the workshop. Lucy Foster from Defra introduced the event and outlined the importance of regular insights from the programme and projects, the need to think about trade-offs and the role the newly formed Food and Drink Sector Council can play in working with the researchers.
Riaz Bhunnoo, Director of the Global Food Security programme outlined the objectives of the funders of the programme, and John Ingram, Programme Leader for GFS FSR at the University of Oxford talked about the concepts of resilience and plans for impact from the portfolio of ten research projects.
Two projects presented the outline of their work. Bob Doherty, from the University of York talked about IKnow Food - integrating knowledge for food system resilience. Tim Hess, from Cranfield University talked about the project on increasing resilience of water related risks in the fresh fruit and vegetable system.
An engaging discussion took place after the presentations and a number of points were raised:
? The importance of genuinely interdisciplinary research to help bring about new insights and change for all the actors in the food system - Government, industry, NGOs and citizens;
? How the research programme can help inform future UK trade policy post-Brexit;
? The opportunities that the programme team can provide for civil servants to engage in the programme, through individual projects, and with the coordination team to help shape the synthesis of research to inform future policy and practice;
? The importance of engagement with departments interested in the global food system, e.g. DfID, FCO; and
? Finding ways for the programme to engage with the Department for Education to inform children and young people about food systems, and how this can shape future consumer behaviour
This workshop was the first of what will become a regular pattern for dialogue with the UK Government over the next three years. The programme coordination team also as presented to the Scottish Government in November 2017, and plans to present to the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Assembly in spring 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Stakeholder engagement with ScotGov 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting with ScotGov and others to present and discuss project results.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019