Northern Ireland’s Institute of Global Food Security (IGFS) has been recognised for the quality of its science by a United Nations agency.

The institute, which is based at Queen’s University Belfast, has been designated a collaborating centre of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The news will see IGFS become one of only two designated collaborating centres in the UK and the first (in the UK) in the area of food and agriculture research.

As of today, there are 47 collaborating centres worldwide across a range of research areas. IGFS will only be the third institute in Europe, undertaking food and agriculture research, to be singled out in this way.

The accolade has been awarded in recognition of IGFS’s research support to the IAEA on feed and food safety, authenticity and traceability.

The collaboration between the two organisations will grow in scale and importance due to this designation.

The application of nuclear and nuclear-related analytical techniques to detect the contamination and adulteration of feeds and foods as well as training scientists across the world in these methods will be key elements to the collaboration.

The IAEA’s mission is to use atomic science as a force for good in the world, for example by using nuclear technologies to improve the carbon footprint of industry, increase access to clean water in the developing world, and to promote food security, better nutrition and human health.

The designation of IGFS as a Collaborating Centre was officially made at IAEA HQ in Vienna, Austria on Friday (March 5), when a plaque was handed over by IAEA deputy director-general and head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, Najat Mokhtar to an ambassador for the UK.

Members of IGFS attended the ceremony remotely alongside representatives of the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

In his remarks, IGFS director Prof. Nigel Scollan said: “Partnership is at the heart of IGFS and we are proud to be recognised in this way by the IAEA.

We wholeheartedly support and share their vision of using the very best science and technology to make the world a better place and look forward to continued collaboration in the area of food and feed safety and authenticity.

IAEA deputy director-general Mokhtar said: “The synergies in the expertise, knowledge, skills and experience of the two institutions will allow a multiplication of the impact of the nuclear technologies.

“We look forward to increasing our fruitful co-operation with IGFS in helping address some of the serious challenges to food safety and security that our Member States face, today and in the future.”

Commenting afterwards, Prof. Chris Elliott OBE, an international expert on food security who leads the food safety and authenticity work in IGFS, said: “This is a wonderful accolade for IGFS to be recognized by IAEA for our efforts in food and feed safety and authenticity.

“We are thrilled by the opportunities this agreement will provide for us to support the vital work of the agency.”