Our impact

GFS has delivered impact and added value in a variety of ways.

We have identified emerging challenges through our horizon scanning activities, which have ultimately set the research agenda. For example the £14.5 million research programme on ‘Resilience of the UK food system in a global context’ funded by BBSRC, ESRC, NERC, and Scottish Government, in partnership with stakeholders. GFS is a trusted intermediary with government and industry and acts as a neutral broker in bringing those stakeholders together with academia to tackle key challenges.

We have sought to make better use of existing knowledge by making it available to policymakers and business in an easily accessible format. Our flagship GFS Insight ‘practice and policy note’ series has covered topics including soils, severe weather, food price spikes the UK aquaculture industry and over-consumption.

GFS has a growing international presence. We led a UK-US project on resilience of the food system to extreme weather, bringing together academia, policymakers (including Defra and FCO) and industry (including food manufacturers and insurance companies) to understand the worst case scenarios for extreme weather impacting crop production, and optimal policy and business responses to minimise negative impacts. Earlier work on this topic has directly informed the IPCC report on climate change, and featured in a Nature publication.

GFS led on a project for the G20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists to map the top research priorities in sustainable agriculture across the G20 countries. This will ensure countries target global research efforts and investment more effectively. GFS has also launched a new international temperate agriculture network (TempAg), which aims to increase international collaboration and coordination across OECD countries, and synthesise knowledge to inform global policy and practice.

Case studies

Further examples can be found in the case studies below and in our impact report:

Impacts from the Global Food Security programme

The GFS programme brings together funding agencies, government and business both domestically and internationally to address the food security challenge. We deliver impact and add value through agenda setting, focusing research priorities, coordination and collaboration, and through public engagement activities, examples of which are provided in this report.

Download - Impacts from the Global Food Security programme

Case Study

Ensuring future food security in the face of climate change

The risk of extreme weather hitting several major food producing regions of the world at the same time could triple by 2040. This was the major finding from a GFS report on extreme weather and the food system, which was presented at the AAAS meeting and at the US Senate.

GFS partnered with the FCO and the Science and Innovation Network to lead this innovative project, bringing together policy, business and academia from the UK and US to understand worst case scenarios for extreme weather impacting on global crop production, and the market and policy responses that would lead to positive outcomes. A short sharp shock from extreme weather results in a substantive yield loss that is channelled through the food system via markets and policy, leading to food price spikes and in some cases instability.

The FCO’s Simon Sharpe said: “This is the most exciting interdisciplinary project I have seen. GFS has been instrumental in promoting an awareness of the risks of climate change to global food security around Whitehall, creating the vision for this project, and bringing together a diverse group of experts from government, industry, science and the think tank community to implement it. I expect this to be enormously helpful to our international climate change influencing work.”

Case Study

Strategic approach to soil science

GFS has catalysed a strategic approach to soil science which has helped galvanise investment in research and training. UK soils are worth £5.3 billion to our economy – 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil is lost each year in the UK costing farmers £9 million.

A £5 million initiative entitled “Soils and rhizosphere interactions for sustainable agri-ecosystems” (GFS-SARISA) was developed through GFS and funded by BBSRC and NERC, resulting in four multidisciplinary projects. Further investments were made by BBSRC, NERC, Defra and the Scottish Government, including a £5 million initiative on soil security, a £2.3 million Centre for Doctoral Training in soil science, and a soils coordinator to bring together research and training investments to maximise impact.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark said: “Forging these strong partnerships between research councils…is vital in addressing major challenges facing our society like feeding a growing population.”

Case Study

Protecting animal and human health in emerging livestock systems

GFS has helped facilitate an £18.5 million multidisciplinary research initiative to help protect animal and human health in the face of emerging livestock farming systems. Meat demand is predicted to rise by 40% in 2030 and there are significant risks to health associated with the rapidly changing nature of livestock farming systems to meet demand: 60% of human pathogens and 75% of emerging diseases are zoonotic.

The initiative on ‘Zoonoses and Emerging Livestock Systems’ (ZELS) was funded by DFID, BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC and DSTL and forged mutually-beneficial multidisciplinary partnerships between researchers in the UK and developing countries.

Case Study

Catalysing research on sustainable fish supplies

GFS has helped catalyse joint investments in aquaculture, an industry which produces 46% of the total food fish supply, is worth £71 million ($106 million) and has the potential to relieve the strain on wild ocean fish stocks.

A GFS Insight policy and practice note summarised and translated the existing evidence on aquaculture and highlighted future research priorities, providing an accessible and very powerful tool for policy-makers and businesses.

BBSRC and NERC (with additional funding from CEFAS, AFBI, Marine Scotland, FSA and FSA-Scotland) launched a £5 million initiative on sustainable aquaculture and also funded a Sustainable Aquatic Food Supply Knowledge Exchange Fellow based at M&S, who provides a vital link between research and industry, and ensures a holistic approach to the aquatic food supply network.

Case Study

Galvanising action to address food waste

A GFS report on ‘Food Waste within Global Systems’ reached over 22 million people through radio, newsprint, social media, and TV. UK households throw away the equivalent of 24 meals a month, adding up to 4.2 million tonnes of food and drink every year that could have been consumed, at an annual cost of £720 per household.

The report was tremendously successful in galvanising action across much of the UK media. It even sparked an ‘Ugly Veg’ competition in the Guardian which led to this being the top online article that day. The Press Association produced a syndicated article about Red Cross food banks making reference to the GFS Food Waste report and its figures on food waste, which was reproduced in further national and regional newspaper websites.

Case Study

Setting the EU’s food security research agenda

GFS has played a leading role in discussions around the EU’s food security research priorities through the Expo event: Feeding the Planet, Energy for life. GFS led on the ‘EU research and global food and nutrition security’ discussion paper as part of an EU Scientific Steering Committee. This paper served as the basis for dialogue on food security research priorities with stakeholders at the Expo event.

The Director-General for Research and Innovation Robert-Jan Smits commented that the paper “very convincingly demonstrates why a global, coordinated and multi-disciplinary approach is needed to tackle the challenge. It is also a very valuable input for the future Work Programmes of the Horizon 2020.”