Harper Adams wins £200K funding for project to boost plant health and biosecurity sector skills

Harper Adams University is among 34 UK institutions revealed to have won funding from the HEFCE Catalyst Fund to commence projects that support the UK Industrial Strategy.

£200,000 has been awarded to Harper Adams, which will work with DEFRA, APHA, FERA as well as large plant growers and SMEs on the Plant health skills for a post-Brexit UK project.

The project is designed to close a skills gap and develop a curriculum of continuing professional development for plant health professionals. “We need higher level plant health specialists to help the UK achieve enhanced productivity and growth in the crops, forestry and environmental sectors and to reduce the risk and threat of disease/pest attacks,” explained project-lead Professor Peter Mills, Harper Adams University Deputy Vice Chancellor and former President of the British Society of Plant Pathology.

“Additional outcomes from this project will be linked to supporting plant biosecurity, safe production and movement of plants, and ultimately after Brexit, compliance with new UK legislation.”

Under the project, Harper Adams will create a suite of CPD modules and a Postgraduate Certificate in Plant Health and Biosecurity. “Currently, no level 7 course of this type is available for plant health to meet the needs of Government or industry,” Professor Mills added.

“Valuable skills in the plant health science area are being lost and this coupled with the impact of Brexit may see a rise in the need for Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors as well as those in industry supporting the change in legislation as a result. Higher-level skills and CPD are required to continue the education of those working in this area, as well as attracting more new graduates into organisations across the UK as specialists.”

The project will create new staff roles including post-doctoral research assistants, internal management staff, new visiting lecturers, and specialist consultants in industry.

Giving support to the project Professor Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer for the UK, said: “We are keen to assist Harper Adams University with this project to develop new curricula for CPD and postgraduate courses that will be dedicated to helping our employees in our business to upskill and advance their careers. The sector has long since seen a need for programmes of this type as we are losing these skills due to retirement.”

HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, said: “We were delighted with the quality of proposals we received for this funding call and particularly the impressive levels of engagement between higher education and industry.

“This investment represents important support for the Government’s Industrial Strategy. The funding will provide new courses and vital skill developments in key industrial sectors across the country, from which students, the workforce and employers all stand to benefit.”

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