CHAP and partners contribute to KTN’s Microbiome Strategic Roadmap

The Microbiome Strategic Roadmap was published this month by KTN, with inputs from more than 70 leading academic and industry scientists, including CHAP Innovation Director Dr Ruth Bastow.

The document is a culmination of a consultation by the Microbiome Innovation Network, which was launched in 2019.

This review of the the landscape of microbiome science and innovation within the UK covers all areas from human and animal health and nutrition to crop and soil health, and considers regulation, manufacturing, biobanking, diagnostics and enabling technologies. It has been produced to raise the visibility of the UK’s world-leading microbiome science and to enable translation of this science to benefit academic institutions, start-ups, SMEs and larger established companies. It is designed to raise the visibility of, and access to, investment in UK microbiome science and innovation in order to support growth and innovation.

The work is the result of collaboration by 74 leading industrial and academic scientists in the UK, with each section of the report written by an expert.

Section 6 of the Microbiome Strategic Roadmap is AgriFood & Nutrition – Crop & Soil Health, which has specific relevance to CHAP. It was written by a team led by Matt Ryan at CABI and, along with Ruth, included scientists from our partners University of Warwick and Rothamsted Research, together with John Innes Centre, Syngenta and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

It outlines three priorities for the UK AgriFood sector including:

  • novel biocontrol/growth stimulation microbial products avoiding the need for chemical intervention and driving towards sustainable agriculture
  • Natural product discovery and exploitation (for healthcare, better nutrition and agrichemical replacement)
  • New germplasm for soil sustainability and better advice to farmers.

CHAP’s Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility and range of Controlled Environment capabilities were listed as examples of new innovations characterising the UK’s potential in the first of these, while CABI’s UK Crop Cryobank and the UK Plant Microbiome initiative are linked to the second.

As the Microbiome Strategic Roadmap reveals, the UK not only has a world-leading position in the science of the microbiome, but also a strong position within agriculture. We also have some of the world’s leading agri-tech companies, one of the most successful biotech ecosystems in the world, a supportive environment for life sciences and biotech start-ups and scale-ups, and a constructive regulatory environment.

However, it also points to a disconnect between applied and fundamental research communities and funding streams that are often fragmented, with restrictive short-term conditions that hinder take-up and efficiency.

The solutions set out in the AgriFood & Nutrition section include fostering closer relationships between industry and academia, increasing funding access and opportunities; working together to form an effective infrastructure and engaging internationally to develop international standards for microbiome research.

“The UK needs to build on its world leading position in the science of the microbiome by taking concrete and timely actions to significantly increase the translation and impact of this science. This report provides clear and actionable recommendations to ensure UK competitiveness in this rapidly emerging field of science and innovation,” said Dr. Andrew Morgan, Chair of the Microbiome Innovation Network Advisory Group.

“It has been incredible to see how more than 70 leading academic and industry scientists have stepped up to producing this strategic roadmap report with the shared goal of raising the visibility of the UK’s world leading microbiome science and enabling translation of this science to the benefit of the academic institutions, start-ups, scale-ups, SMEs, larger established companies that operate in the UK, and to society at large,” added Charles Vander Broek, Knowledge Transfer Manager for Agri-Food & Industrial Biotechnology.

CHAP’s Dr Ruth Bastow said: “It was a pleasure to work with experts across the sector to generate the AgriFood & Nurtition section of this report. We all recognised the key role the microbiome plays in crop production and soil health. I hope the report will provide an impetus and focus for much needed R&D and collaboration in this sphere to drive forward sustainable agricultural systems that generates economic, environmental and societal benefits.”

To read the document in full go to Microbiome Roadmap.

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