A new strategic alliance has been announced between the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Queen’s University Belfast to create a "globally competitive" research and education partnership.

This will facilitate the development of the next generation of leaders and experts in agri-food and bioscience, the institutions say.

Having historically worked together, this new alliance between the institutions will "enable further pooling of expertise, facilities and knowledge to support the development and expansion of the local and global agri-food industry", according to the AFBI.

The alliance will have three core themes: enabling innovation; facilitating new ways of working; and partnerships.

Speaking at the launch event, which took place on Friday (May 18), AFBI chief executive Dr. Sinclair Mayne commented: “The agri-food industry is set to experience a period of unprecedented change in the next decade given the major global challenges of increased food demand, climate change and pressure on land use, coupled with continued volatility and uncertainty in agricultural production and food systems.

“This alliance with Queen’s University Belfast will enable our agri-food science base within Northern Ireland to keep pace with these developments, thereby ensuring that the local agri-food and biosciences sectors have access to world-leading science to assist them in evolving and adapting to new challenges and opportunities.”

Director of the institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, Prof. Nigel Scollan, also spoke, saying: “At a time when the world’s population is growing at its fastest ever rate, food security is a major global challenge.

"Responsive, high-quality research, education and partnership is essential to ensure the agri-food sector remains innovative, sustainable and globally competitive.

“Through the alliance we will focus on tackling the challenges in agriculture and food security, training the next generation of leaders and experts who are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to transform our current food production systems.

By working in close partnership, we will help to ensure that food production and consumption is resource-smart, climate-smart and eco-healthy.

Under the new alliance, both organisations will retain their current independent status with increased emphasis on effective collaboration.

This will be done by utilising the diversity of skills, knowledge facilities and capacity within both organisations to achieve greater impact in the global agri-food and food security arena, according to the AFBI.