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PhD opportunity - closing date for applications 15th October 2013

‘Sources of innovation in the fresh produce industry’


It is acknowledged that the UK has strengths in the elements vital to support the growth of the fresh produce sector, including institutes and university departments at the forefront of areas of research vital to agriculture and related technologies, and innovative and dynamic farmers, food manufacturers and retailers. Despite this, UK agriculture’s productivity growth has declined relative to our major competitors. This has been linked to a decline in the uptake of new technologies.

There are a number of factors which have been associated with hindering the UK in developing and using innovation and new technologies, including the regulatory regime and skills gaps. There has been a growing perception that many of resources being put into biological and agricultural research, particularly fundamental science, are not resulting in commensurate gains in new products and technologies. The issue is not peculiar to the agriculture and food industries and has been raised in the context of medical research. The term ‘translational research’ has been used increasingly and this describes the process by which early-stage innovations are advanced to the point where they become attractive for further development by the industry.

Project outline

The aim of this PhD project is to address the following overarching question:

How can the translation and exploitation of research for the fresh produce sector be improved?

The student will use the global literature on translational research relating to agriculture, medicine and other industries, contrasting commercial versus public sector approaches and undertake original research, developed around case studies, to address the following questions:

1. How is the fresh produce Research & Development/Knowledge Transfer pipeline constructed?

2. What are the key issues or problems relating to translation and exploitation of research within the supply chain?

3. Are these problems specific to a particular part of the supply chain?

4. What methods of knowledge transfer /communication channels have been found to be the most effective?

5. Are there good examples of effective translation and exploitation of research?

6. What possible metrics exist to measure the degree of success in translation of research into use?

7. How do stakeholders go about communicating their needs to other parts of the supply chain?

8. What incentives exist /should exist for producers to take up new technologies or methods?

9. What possible actions or recommendations would help to address the issues?

In the final year, the project should seek to develop and test innovative ways to instigate behavioural change and implementation along the supply chain.

The project will be a collaboration between AHDB (Potato Council and Horticultural Development Company) and the University of Warwick. The student will be based at the University of Warwick but will work closely with Potato Council and HDC, who are based nearby at Stoneleigh Park.

For further details please e-mail Rosemary Collier