A collaborative project between the University of Warwick and Elsoms Seeds Ltd was one of three finalists in the recent Lord Stafford Best Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Awards held on 15 November at The Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
The Lord Stafford Awards were launched in 1997 as a way to showcase the work taking place between academia and business in the Midlands to develop groundbreaking products, processes and services. The Awards support growth and economic prosperity for the UK, and aim to encourage all businesses and universities to participate in collaborative activity, and to embrace innovation.
Current trends in vegetable production are towards locally-grown produce. This has created a major opportunity for British seed producers such as Elsoms to increase their sales in the UK. Elsoms wanted to improve their ability to provide a quality range of vegetables to their customers. In order to do so, the company need to maintain their leading position in vegetables such as parsnips and to diversity into new seed markets. This led the company to evaluate its vegetable variety portfolio to identify areas with potential to improve and expand. Market research identified rocket and mustard leafy salad as potential new markets for Elsoms. Again diversifying into this market would require current problems in the quality and disease resistance of existing varieties to be addressed.
The aims of the KTP were therefore to implement genetic marker technologies in a way which was appropriate to Elsoms commercial needs and to support the development of the skills and capabilities to use Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) technology. The collaboration between Elsoms and Warwick Crop Centre allowed the company to adopt and embed this technology in its own laboratories; strengthening their current market position by reducing the development time of new varieties of parsnips and also developing new market opportunities in baby leaf seeds through access to the gene bank and expertise of the University.
Luke Bell (KTP Associate) and Lord Stafford at the KTP Award Ceremony
The KTP project, recently led by Dr Guy Barker and Dr Graham Teakle, has had a significant impact in strengthening the relationship between Warwick and Elsoms – leading to several new avenues of collaboration. The partnership provides a route to industrial application for research in the University of Warwick and increases the potential for the research teams to win research funding. The KTP has provided an excellent opportunity for University researchers to understand industry needs and how new academic knowledge can be transferred to achieve business objectives.
Elsoms Seeds and the University of Warwick are continuing to work together on research projects and further research studentships.