Food Economy Task Force

Food Economy Task Force

What was the Food Economy Task Force?

The Food Economy Task Force was an NCUB led initiative that looked at ways of boosting the UK's food economy through world-class collaboration between businesses, universities and government.

The Task Force was co-chaired by Justin King, former Chief Executive, Sainsbury's and Professor Quintin McKellar, Vice Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire - formerly Principal, Royal Veterinary College.

The final report of the Task Force and its three subject specific work streams was published in March 2015 - read the report now.

The challenge set by the NCUB Food Economy Task Force was to answer:

“How can the UK integrate collaboration between business, higher education and other research institutions to develop a more competitive and sustainable UK agri-food sector?

Why the Food Economy Task Force?

There will be more than nine billion people on the planet by 2050, and the world's agricultural systems will be increasingly challenged by water scarcity, climate change and volatility, raising the risk of production shortfalls. Gains in food provision can be achieved through investment, innovation, policy, and the development of skills, expertise and talent. However, solving problems on this scale will require effective and integrated collaboration between businesses, higher education and the research base.

As the World Economic Forum noted, "Innovative tools only work if they are supported by the right policy, infrastructure and market structure. Improved seed does not yield a full harvest without soil management and storage; an improved harvest can result in price erosion and regional surplus without appropriate market links." With every challenge comes opportunity, and UK companies can be market leaders in the global food economy if we can develop world class collaboration.

Our Role

A high level steering group was set up to provide advice to the co-chairs on the Task Force's remit, scope and approach. This group met approximately four times over the course of the Task Force and they helped shape its final recommendations and outputs.

To answer the overarching question of the Task Force the Steering Group agreed that there were three important areas of focus, and recommended that specialist work streams be set up to look into these issues.

The work streams provided the main thrust of work for the Task Force, meeting regularly to delve deeper into issues and solutions, developing research questions and proposals, outputs, propositions, and insights that will be fed back to the Steering Group.

  • Work Stream 1 focused on developing the right talent for the Food Economy now and for the future.
  • Work Stream 2 focused on science and translation and the race to the top of global innovation.
  • Work Stream 3 focused on the optimisation of sustainable land use, resources and pull through into innovation.
The Food 4.0 Hub

Several recommendations emerged out of the task force around the creation of a new portal to help:

  1. inspire students as to the possibilities of a career in food, and provide guidance on starting a career in the industry
  2. businesses to expand by collaborating with universities
  3. universities find an outlet for their expertise from within the food industry

The Food 4.0 Hub will therefore aim to curate the finest content in each of these areas to make it easier for each stakeholder to understand what is happening in the industry.

It will also work closely with other NCUB projects, such as the innovation brokerage tool Konfer, to help instigate collaborations between universities and business.

Who was involved?

The Task Force was co-chaired by Justin King, former Chief Executive, Sainsbury's and Professor Quintin McKellar, Vice Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire - formerly Principal, Royal Veterinary College.

More than 40 professionals are currently working across all three work streams including our designated chairs Justine Fosh (Chief Executive National Skills Academy for food and drink, and Improve), Professor Peter Downes (Vice Chancellor, University of Dundee), Chris Stott (Partner, Transaction Services KPMG), Professor Tim Benton (UK Champion for Global Food Security & Professor of Population Ecology University of Leeds and Global Food Secruity Programme).

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