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Tyneside scientists win Government food safety work.

Byline: Ruth Lognonne Education Reporter ruth.lognonne@trinitymirror.com

SCIENTISTS in the North East will soon be responsible for the future of food safety after winning a joint bid to take over the Government's Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

Newcastle University has been selected as the preferred bidder to form a joint venture with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to operate its food and environmental research arm in York.

For 30 years Fera has led the research on major food safety projects in the wake of food fraud scandals such as the horse meat controversy and foot and mouth disease. Now, outsourcing giant Capita has chosen Newcastle University as its science partner to run the research part of the new multi-million-pound organisation.

Capita will make an initial investment of PS20m for a 75% stake in the joint venture, with further investment, in cash, kind and dividends, during the following five years.

The joint venture will bring together around 40 researchers from Newcastle University.

Prof Rob Edwards, head of the university's school of agriculture, food and rural development, said: "This is an exciting new role for the university.

"We are delighted to be working with Capita on this collaboration.

"The bid includes our plan for an institute, led by Newcastle University but drawing on the expertise of the existing scientific team at Fera, our academic colleagues from universities both across the UK and internationally, as well as government and industrial partners.

"This new collaboration would give us a real opportunity to drive forward innovation in areas such as food security and crop protection and help us to maximise the opportunities for our research to impact on agriculture and modern food security challenges."

Fera employs nearly 400 scientists near York, ensuring food safety and quality 'from farm to fork', sustainable crop production, environmental management and conservation.

Fera's scientists recently led the way in identifying horse meat in the food chain and are carrying out vital work to understand the cause of declining bee populations - a multi-millionpound worry for crop growers. The new organisation would also benefit from the facilities at Newcastle University's two research farms - Cockle Park in Newcastle and Nafferton in Northumberland - as well as its food-testing facilities linked to the Human Nutrition Research Centre.

Capita chief executive Andy Parker said: "The excellent science being carried out by staff at Fera has not yet been able to reach its full commercial potential because of obvious limits on investment, recruitment and marketing.

"Capita's commercial know-how will complement the Fera team's scientific expertise, helping it to grow the scientific capability it can offer existing and new customers.

"Working together, we will create a more efficient and improved organisation allowing scientists to focus on the science and its delivery.

"Crucially, the additional capabilities of Capita and its partners, including Newcastle University, will enable the joint venture to drive commercial and government-sector growth."

CAPTION(S):

The new organisation would also benefit from the facilities at Newcastle University's two research farms, <Bincluding Nafferton, near Stocksfield in Northumberland
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 12, 2015
Words:506
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