Business and Universities Combine to Boost UK Food Economy

Following the publication of the BIS-Defra-DfID UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies on Monday 22nd July 2013, the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) has today announced a forthcoming Task Force which will look at ways of boosting the UK’s food economy through world-class collaboration between businesses, universities and government.

The Task Force will be co-chaired by Justin King, Chief Executive, Sainsbury’s, and Professor Quintin McKellar, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hertfordshire and formerly Principal of the Royal Veterinary College. Along with expert colleagues drawn from across industry, politics and academia, this group will focus on the following question: How do we ensure that universities are able to provide the high-quality intellectual and innovative graduates and research the UK needs to contribute to a highly competitive food industry?

The Task Force’s ambition is to secure a clear and strategic alignment between the UK Government’s and devolved administrations’ industrial strategies and world-class business-university collaboration in the food sector.

Justin King, Chief Executive, Sainsbury’s said “The agri-food sector is one of the most important industries in the UK which is why it is important to plan for the future now. Last week Sainsbury’s proudly launched a graduate scheme dedicated to British agriculture, which adds to the 80 graduate placements we’ve offered in just the last five years. But we need to continue to attract and develop young talent and back up new technologies. This will ensure we continue to provide quality food produced to the high standards that customers rightly expect. I am delighted to co-chair this Task Force which will help address this challenge.”

“Profitable and sustainable Agriculture and food industries are vital to the UK and they must be resilient to extremes of weather and other disrupting events. These industries require innovative graduates and ground breaking research to remain competitive and responsive; this initiative will support that agenda.” added Professor Quintin McKellar, Vice Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire and co-chair of the Task Force.

Dr David Docherty, CEO of the NCUB, said, “Industry and higher education must unite to tackle the challenges of creating and sustaining a world-leading food sector, and this powerful Task Force will make a major contribution to economic development in the sector.”

George Freeman MP, Life Science Adviser to the Government and Chair of the All Party Group for Science and Technology in Agriculture, added “The UK’s world leading food industry and globally renowned science research base have a unique opportunity to work together, with the Government’s help, to reach new emerging markets. I welcome the establishment of this Task Force in response to the Government’s new Agri-Tech Strategy and the work it will do to ensure the UK’s expertise in the food sector remains revolutionary.”

Notes for editors

NCUB food task force steering group:




Task Force Co-Chairs

Professor Quintin McKellar


University of Hertfordshire

Justin King

Chief Executive


Steering Group

Professor Tim Benton

UK Champion for Global Food Security & Professor of Population Ecology

University of Leeds

Dr Paul Burrows

Director, Corporate Policy and Strategy


Dr Mike Bushell

Principal Scientific Adviser


Dr David Docherty

Chief Executive Officer


Professor Peter Downes

Vice Chancellor

University of Dundee

Professor Chris Elliott

Director, Institute for Global Food Security

Queen’s University Belfast

Iain Ferguson


Berendsen plc

Professor David Greenaway

Vice Chancellor

University of Nottingham

Richard Greenhalgh

Former Chairman


Dr David Llewellyn Principal

Harper Adams University College

Professor Duncan Maskell

Head of Department and Marks & Spencer Professor of Farm Animal Health, Food Science & Food Safety

University of Cambridge

Robin Mills

Managing Director – Chartwells

Compass Group UK & Ireland

Dr Maurice Moloney

Director and Chief Executive

Rothamsted Research

Professor Nigel Scollan

Head of Animal Systems and Waitrose Professor of Sustainable Agriculture

Aberystwyth University Belfast

Professor Mark Smith

Vice Chancellor

Lancaster University

Paul Willgoss

Head Of Technology For Food

Marks & Spencer

James Withers

Chief Executive

Scotland Food & Drink

National Centre for Business and Universities:
Vision: Increasing the prosperity and wellbeing of the UK through world-leading university and business collaboration.

Mission: By effective collaboration nurture the right talent, innovation and expertise for the UK’s future growth.

Drawing on the 25 years’ experience of our predecessor body, the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE), NCUB is committed to a programme of research, policy development and practical partnerships. From facilitating collaborative R&D, to developing the entrepreneurial and employability skills of students at all stages of their education, NCUB is working to support UK business and higher education in a competitive global market.

NCUB’s Leadership Council includes many of the UK’s most successful businesses and universities.

For further information, please contact Sally Devine, on 0207 383 7668 or by emailing