Infertile land. Plant sprout growing in cracked desert soil. Food insecurity, global warming.
The University of Plymouth is investing more than £10 million to strengthen its position at the global forefront of agriculture, aquaculture and sustainable food production research and innovation.
A new Centre of Research excellence in Intelligent and Sustainable Productive Systems (CRISPS) is being created to apply a systems level approach to addressing some of the key challenges of feeding a future global population in excess of 9 billion people.
Over the next five years, the University will considerably expand its work in three complementary and mutually reinforcing themes: production health and welfare, agricultural technology and controlled environments, and soil health.
It will rapidly expand its research capacity, increase the numbers of researchers looking into the issues, train a new generation of researchers through PhDs and MScs, and establish a number of new research facilities across the University campus.
It will also expand the opportunities available to its students, and scale up its collaborations with businesses and policy makers on a regional, national and international level.
The CRISPS centre is being supported with a grant of more than £5.7 from Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund, which is designed to expand small but outstanding research units.
Professor of Ecological Genetics Professor Richard Preziosi, Head of the University’s School of Biological and Marine Sciences, will be the new Director of CRISPS.

This CRISPS centre is a significant step forward for the University in a number of critical sectors. Providing sufficient food to feed an expanding human population is one of the major challenges of the 21st century. At the same time, we need to establish ways to reduce carbon emissions and reverse the dramatic decline in biodiversity. We are also in a period of significant political change, where new legislation has the potential to have significant impact on the landowners and communities. Through the new CRISPS centre, the University now has the capacity to work with existing and new partners to meet those challenges head-on and deliver real and lasting benefits both in the South West region and for the planet as a whole.

Richard PreziosiRichard Preziosi
Director of the Centre of Research Excellence in Intelligent and Sustainable Productive Systems (CRISPS)

Research England’s £5.7 million of funding is an important indicator that our University has been on a trajectory of increasing our research intensity and we intend to continue that success. Through initiatives like CRISPS, our teams are finding exciting new ways to feed the world’s growing population without wrecking the planet in the process.

Kevin JonesKevin Jones
Deputy Vice-Chancellor - Research and Innovation

Centre of Research Excellence in Intelligent and Sustainable Productive Systems (CRISPS) lead image showing a hand holding soil and a plant.
The CRISPS centre will focus on areas which, in the most recent Research Excellence Framework, saw the University ranked first nationally for the impact of its research related to agriculture and food sciences.
It will also harness its global reputation for outstanding marine research, through which it already drives the global agenda in fields including plastic pollution, aquaculture, marine protected areas, and marine and coastal policy.
Over the coming years, the University will recruit both leading and early career researchers in fields from agriculture to autonomous systems, soil health and sensor technology.
It will also invest more than £2.7m in new laboratories centred around high precision aquaculture, protected and controlled environments, and molecular genetics and sensors.
These expansions will be matched by an increased number of PhD research positions, and support new and existing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across a number of subject areas.
The development of the CRISPS centre has been supported by businesses, local authorities and other organisations across the South West region.

This investment highlights the critical importance of the world-class research coming out of our region. The South West is critical to the UK’s future food security, and underscores the importance of the region to the national economy. Understanding how to address food security while supporting biodiversity is a global challenge; and one that the Great South West, as a key UK food producer, is poised to deliver. The research supported by this funding will have a transformative impact on the UK’s long-term food security, while ensuring our environment is protected for generations to come.

Karl Tucker
Chair of the Great South West Partnership
The new centre is one of 18 being created thanks to a grant from Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund, which is investing £156million in initiatives that will expand small, but outstanding research units.
Dr Steven Hill, Director of Research at Research England, added:
“This investment will diversify the regional spread of research disciplines to support the sustained enhancement of research capacity across England. It will enhance the skills base, build and diversify talent and bring disciplines together to develop new skillsets and 'future leaders' in areas of research excellence where there is untapped potential.”