On November 20, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the launch of the UK-CGIAR Centre at the Global Food Security Summit in London, an event hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. The event, held at Lancaster House, brought together governments, international organisations, scientists, NGOs and the private sector to mobilise action on global food insecurity.

The UK government wants to harness the country’s strengths in science and technology to help tackle the interconnected challenges of global food security and climate change. With funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the UK-CGIAR Centre has been created to help achieve this ambition by strengthening ties between CGIAR, the world’s largest global agricultural innovation network, and cutting-edge UK science.

At the summit, the Prime Minster said: “As the country that over the last few years has led the development of the world’s first and second malaria vaccine. We’re also driving scientific advances in food security which benefit millions global as well as supporting our brilliant farmers here at home. He continued, “we’ve already helped develop crops that are drought-resistant and even richer in vitamins now feeding 100 million people across Africa.  And we’re going further…launching a new UK CGIAR Science Centre to drive cutting-edge research”.

UK scientific institutes have a long history of working with CGIAR, but these collaborations are dispersed and in need of refinement. The Centre will be forging dynamic, new collaborations between CGIAR, UK science institutes and research centres in the Global South as well as galvanising existing partnerships.  

Professor Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chair, CGIAR System Board, said: “I’m delighted to witness the launch of this initiative. This is an excellent opportunity to strengthen CGIAR’s existing ties with the UK’s leading scientific institutes and forge new partnerships. The partnership will aid access to cutting edge research ideas for innovations that will benefit the developing countries in which we work.”

CABI will direct the Centre’s Secretariat. It will manage the day-to-day operation of the Centre, liaising between the other core members of the Centre: FCDO, CGIAR, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (representing UK Research and Innovation). CABI’s roles will also involve relationship management with existing and prospective partners, communications support, project commissioning, as well as monitoring, evaluation, and reporting.

Dr Daniel Elger, Chief Executive Officer of CABI, said: “CABI has a proud history of working with the FCDO to harness science and evidence for development impact. Forging global scientific partnerships that produce practical, lasting solutions will be crucial to turning the tide against the growing global food security crisis. This is why we are delighted to be hosting the UK-CGIAR Centre.”

The Centre has already commissioned research and started forging partnerships that will work on four areas:

  1. Confronting climate change and environmental degradation through sustainable crop management and climate-smart agronomic practices
  2. Crop genetic improvement for future climate resilience
  3. Enhancing nutrition
  4. Livestock improvement, animal health, nutrition and welfare

The researchers on the projects will be working in FCDO “priority regions”, including Africa and South Asia. Through these partnerships, the Centre aims to improve locally led innovation and encourage the exchange of expertise.