Queen’s University Belfast and University of East Anglia rank top for agriculture and food sciences research in the UK

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Queen's University Belfast

Queen’s University Belfast and the University of East Anglia (UEA) have ranked joint first place for Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences in the 2021 edition of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a UK-wide assessment of the quality of university research.

The universities which made the top 10 list for research in the Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences category are:

  1. Queen’s University Belfast and University of East Anglia
  2. University of Liverpool
  3. University of Glasgow
  4. University of Bristol
  5. University of Cambridge
  6. University of Plymouth
  7. Royal Veterinary College
  8. University of Stirling
  9. University of Nottingham

The assessment is conducted every six to seven years and analyses the quality of research across UK universities, taking into consideration the research outputs, impact and environment.

On being ranked top, Queen’s University Belfast Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer said: “These are outstanding achievements of which we should be extremely excited, not only for what they say about Queen’s University but also for their current and future contribution to wider society in Northern Ireland and beyond.

“Our research shapes worlds. From finding solutions to disadvantage on our doorstep to delivering an impact right across the world, the variety of research at Queen’s continues to make a difference to lives and livelihoods. We are incredibly proud of the impact our research and support staff have in Northern Ireland and globally.”

Queen’s recently joined Government and industry leaders to launch the All-Island Food Initiative (FOOD-I), which will address the growing threat of the climate crisis and challenges within the Irish food system.

The university also ranked number one for Agriculture, Forestry & Food in the Guardian UK Universities Guide 2022, for Food Science & Agriculture research in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022, and for both Food Science and Agriculture in the Complete University Guide 2022.

Professor Emma Flynn, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at Queen’s added: “We are pleased to have performed particularly strongly in relation to our research environment which has been assessed at over 95% world-leading or internationally excellent, endorsing our commitment to building a vibrant and inclusive research culture and developing early-career talent.”

Innovation in food is a focus for UEA academic research too. In 2019, the university founded a state-of-the-art health research and endoscopy centre, The Quadram Institute, which focuses on transforming the world of gut health, microbiology and food.

The university is also developing a Food and Drink Innovation Cluster, which will bring together researchers, academics and technical experts, and a range of food and drinks businesses, to foster knowledge exchange, business, R&D collaboration and supply chain opportunities. The Cluster will be part of the larger Broadland Food Innovation Centre, which is expected to be complete by the third quarter of 2022.

UEA is also a pioneer in climate change research, with its Climatic Research Unit celebrating its 50 year anniversary this year.

Professor Fiona Lettice, UEA Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “The outcomes today highlight the diverse and rich ways that UEA research is benefitting society and confirm our position as a globally significant centre of research with a track record in creativity and innovation.”

The University of Liverpool was awarded third place. Its research areas include tackling global food problems, improving the health and welfare of livestock, companion and laboratory animals, and managing infectious diseases in animals.

The University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture was also awarded first place for the impact of its research, which was described as “outstanding”.

Earlier this year, the Stirling received approval for a £17M National Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Hub, which will be dedicated to aquaculture research and innovation and bringing economic growth to Scotland.

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “When compared with the previous REF 2014 results, we have improved across all three pillars of assessment – research outputs, impact, and environment – key markers of excellence which demonstrate the progress we have made over the last seven years.

“This important independent recognition underlines our commitment to use our innovative and interdisciplinary research to address the needs of society and reflects the hard work and dedication of our staff who ensure purpose and impact is at the centre of everything we do.

“As we look to the future, we will continue to build on the progress we have made. Excellent opportunities lie ahead for the University, including those presented by the multi-million-pound investment in economic and social improvement, based on University-led research, enabled through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal.”  

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