STFC Food Network+ Extension

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: The York Management School


STFC Food Network+ (SFN 1.0 hereafter) brought together STFC researchers and facilities with research and industry in the agri-food sector (>700 members with >80 non-academia). The network has built an interdisciplinary community including NERC, ESRC and BBSRC-funded researchers, working to provide a sustainable, secure supply of safe, nutritious and affordable high-quality food using less land, with reduced inputs, in the context of global climate change and declining natural resources. SFN 1.0 has kick-started innovative interdisciplinary projects providing key opportunities for the research community, industries and policy makers, making a meaningful contribution to the food system. It has supported over 40 small projects covering areas such as forecasting crop yields using SENTINEL data, radio astronomy; investigating the microstructure architecture of snacks and arsenic in rice using Diamond and ISIS facilities; assuring the authenticity of fruit juices and high value products such as avocadoes, packaged salads through Raman Spectroscopy and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry; predicting successful cattle pregnancy through IR Thermography and the application of Blockchains for food safety and cryogenics to food supply chains to reduce food waste.

STFC Food Network+ Extension (hereafter SFN 2.0) offers exceptional value to the STFC by building on and substantially extending existing investments on SFN 1.0 that have proven themselves highly capable of wide-ranging user engagement with STFC CAPABILITIES in (a) data science, (b) technology and (c) facilities for better understanding and addressing food challenges in via THEMES of (i) Sustainable production, (ii) Resilient supply chains and (iii) Improved Nutrition and Consumer Behaviours. Over the life of the SFN 2.0, it will galvanise the research community in the UK and beyond to deliver new models of interdisciplinary, co-designed, user-engaged research through a GIVE framework:

Globalisation: While continuing to have focus on STFC core capabilities in the UK, the SFN 2.0 would aim to create an impact by globalising STFC capabilities across the targeted international countries and widening Network+ membership and partnerships of SFN with global partners.

Impact-led projects: Leveraging on the innovative project initiation by SFN 1.0 (14 of which included industry participation) and its relations with multiple policy and business stakeholders, SFN 2.0 will provide platform to further realise impact on ground by co-developing and perhaps also co-funding impact-driven projects of national importance with non-academic beneficiaries. SFN 2.0 will also focus on new area of research in all the food themes including but not limited to smart farms, palm oil, aquaculture, permaculture, insects, cultured meat, innovative production systems such as hydroponics, vertical farming and food for space stations, food safety, transparency, diets for healthy ageing population, acceptance of new healthy/ innovative products, alternative proteins whilst reducing waste and demands on land, energy and water.

Visibility: While continuing to focus on increasing its visibility within the UK, SFN 2.0 would aim to highlight the core capabilities of STFC by leveraging on its expertise in high speed computing, thermal engineering, big data analytics, sensor technologies, Blockchain and other disruptive technologies internationally through regular knowledge exchange activities, partner visits, and STEM activities.

Early Career Enhancement: SFN 2.0 will engage early career researchers from STFC and food research to build capacity for long-term sustainability of SFN. Involve existing STFC Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) as well as with food industry/ policy/ international organisations for providing secondment or internship opportunities to early career researchers (PhDs/ Post-doc/ Lecturers - both UK and international) in one of the SFN themes.

Planned Impact

The main pathway to impact of the SFN 2.0 is to advance the existing SFN network and collaborations between STFC researchers and food researchers (including those in industry) to tackle problems in global food security: (1) Increasing Sustainable production, (2) Developing the Resilient supply chain, and (3) Improving nutrition and changing consumer behaviour. This network extension will focus on increased visibility and networking of the existing SFN, as well as improvement of SFN engagement for early career researchers and STEM students/teachers. At an early stage we will work to identify demand among participants for particular outputs and activities, and by mapping potential pathways to impact. Using the Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis method, we will take a systematic strategic approach to building robust and lasting communities of knowledge and practice and inspiring positive behaviour change.

While the core focus of SFN2.0 will remain in the UK, due to the international expansion of SFN 2.0 there will be new benefits to the international interdisciplinary research community; particularly to stakeholders and researchers in developing partner countries (e.g. starting with Thailand, Philippines, Ethiopia, Ghana). Benefits will be realised through international knowledge exchange, international showcase events, invited talks, sandpits, scoping and follow-on projects. This boarding of international partnerships and scope allows SFN2.0 to have positive impact on the research agenda for the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, especially 2. Zero Hunger; 3. Good Health and Wellbeing; 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities; 12. Responsible Consumption and Production; and 13. Climate Action.

The Impact and Outreach Manager (Reynolds, Sheffield) will co-ordinate (overseen by PI) Impact alongside structures and mechanisms already in place at the Investigator Universities to facilitate impact, including both public and business engagements, and commercialisation teams.
IMPACT OBJECTIVES are measurable and linked to Network objectives
1. Increased number of network members, including 1) Global, 2) Industry (Businesses and Policy), 3) STFC and 4) ECR members.
2. Increased number of STFC skills, facilities and, methods used within co-designed interdisciplinary collaborations and research projects.
3. Increased number of co-designed projects that address the priorities of 1) ISCF, UKRI, Innovate UK, Defra, FSA, Environment Agency and Department for International Trade, 2) the Sustainable Development goals. 3) civil society sector.
4. Increased numbers of skill-building and training opportunities. 1) in the UK, and 2) Internationally.
5. Increased citation and references to SFN 1.0 and 2.0 funded research and activities in policy documents (within UK and internationally).
6. Increased engagement with STEM ambassadors and schools events.

There is funding available to Network Management Group and Champions to hold activities and generate Impact.

ENGAGEMENT WITH INDUSTRY. This Network Extension has been co-designed to build on the ongoing SFN work with industry, and will expand the industrial network to global supply chains.
ENGAGEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT. This research has been co-designed in part to complement the UK Government strategies and commitments, and to provide specific evidence needs for Defra, FSA, HMRC, PHE etc.
ENGAGEMENT WITH UKRI. This research has been co-designed to be linked to existing other UKRI networks including BBSRC-Global Food Security, the ESRC Internet of Food Things Network Plus, AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network, Catapult, Agri-Tech Centres, Quadram Institute, and the UK Data Service. These links will ensure effective two-way knowledge exchange with UKRI organizations.
PLANNED ENGAGEMENT WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS via existing gateway stakeholder networks including Defra, FSA, N8Agrifood, FCRN and FRC networks.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ST/T002921/1 31/03/2020 29/09/2021 £978,016
ST/T002921/2 Transfer ST/T002921/1 30/09/2021 31/03/2024 £725,203