Mid Wales

Aberystwyth University unveils £35m agri-research plan

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Media captionProf April McMahon said agriculture was hugely important for the Welsh economy

Aberystwyth University has unveiled ambitious plans to redevelop its agriculture research facilities into a £35m innovation centre.

Its Gogerddan campus outside of the town is to become the Aberystwyth Innovation and Diffusion Campus (Aidc).

A £14.5m grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) includes £2.5m for research into improving upland farming.

The money is part of UK government science plans to boost food security.

The Gogerddan campus is home to the internationally renowned plant research centre the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Ibers).

Ibers, which became part of the university in 2008 and is one of the university's seven institutes, employs around 360 people.

It is home to the £6.8m National Plant Phenomics Centre, backed by BBSRC and Welsh government, which opened last year boasting the UK's most advanced research greenhouse.

The new BBSRC money gives Aberystwyth the largest share of £30m research funding from the UK's Agricultural Technology Strategy to be announced later by Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts.

Work on Aidc is expected to start in 2014 and be completed by March 2015.

The proposals include:

  • The redevelopment of the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Centre
  • Development of an Interdisciplinary Centre for the Bio-economy
  • Centre for Food, Nutrition and Energy Security
  • Developing substitutes for fossil fuels

Ibers director Prof Wayne Powell said BBSRC's investment - in projects such as high sugar content grass feed for livestock - would safeguard current jobs and offered the prospect of more later.

He said: "This is really groundbreaking. To win this funding in the current tough economic climate is a vote of confidence for the research Ibers, Aberystwyth and in agricultural science.

"Food is big business and and promoting food products is important but it doesn't stop there, it's what happens to the food subsequently and it's engaging the consumer.

"What we want to do is work with small and medium-sized firms in food and the farming industry and the supply chain.

"With this investment comes an expectation the money will be used to unlock the economic potential of the UK as a science base."

Aberystwyth University is to invest its own cash in the project and is in negotiations with the Welsh government and the private sector for the rest of the money.

Other sites receiving BBSRC cash are: Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, up to £8.2m, the Easter Bush Campus (Edinburgh) receives up to £5m, and the Norwich Research Park received up to £2.5m

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