Are you a food system thinker? The £47.5M ‘Transforming the UK Food Systems SPF Programme’ has opened a call for expressions of interest.
The programme is addressing the balance around what we should eat, produce and manufacture in the UK and what we should import.
Responses are invited from teams that integrate both natural and social sciences in order to take into account the complex interactions between health, environment and socioeconomic factors.
Need for food systems research
Poor diet is the biggest risk factor for early deaths worldwide, leading to 1 in 7 deaths in Britain every year. Many studies suggest that our diets lack oily fish, fibre from wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. We often consume more meat than recommended. If diets continue along the current trajectory, it will increase pressure on our health and social care systems and the environment. This may lead to economic and social instability.
It is clear, however, that agricultural production can no longer be addressed in isolation; there also needs to be a consideration of changing patterns of demand that are driving our production systems. This is particularly important in terms of how much food and what types of food we need to produce, manufacture and import in the future, and which foods we should prioritise to improve health and sustainability.
It is increasingly recognised that the UK needs to move away from a ‘calories per hectare’ approach to one that considers the ‘number of people fed healthily and sustainably per hectare’. This interplay between production and demand, and environment and health, is the type of whole systems research that the UKRI is looking to support through the Food Systems SPF programme.
Designing a new food system
The programme aims to develop a UK food system that has healthy people and a healthy natural environment at its centre by bringing together researchers, government, business, and civil society to determine what interventions might be required and to train the next generation of food system thinkers.
The programme is in three parts of which Call 2 is opening now (3rd February 2021)
Call 2: Transforming UK food systems for health and environment (£14M) will support two to three- year research grants of between £250,000 – £2,000,000.
Project can be led by any discipline but must; integrate both social and natural sciences; collaborate with at least one stakeholder organisation from government, business or civil society; address UK government priorities.
The Expression of Interest stage of Call 2 is currently open, with a deadline of April 22nd 2021.
Please register on the online portal for access to a call webinar, networking events, Q&A sessions, stakeholder videos and a collaboration finder.
The programme is being delivered by UKRI, in partnership with other agencies. the Global Food Security Programme, BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, Defra, DHSC, PHE, Innovate UK and FSA.