Newly designated Centres of Excellence to help realise the UK’s international aquatic science potential

15 October 2018

Cefas International Centres of Excellence logo

The UK’s international leadership in aquatic science has been recognised with the launch of twoInternational Centres of Excellence, based at the UK Government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).  A mission to ensure safe and sustainable seafood, through world-class research and innovation is central to the work of Government scientists based in the Centres.

The International Centres of Excellence for Aquatic Animal Health and Seafood Safety build on Cefas’ designation as a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Collaborating Centre for Aquatic Animal Disease and a growing partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The two Centres incorporate the scientific and advisory expertise of some 150 Cefas staff. They build upon prior designations as EU Reference Laboratories and are the first of at least four, with Cefas additionally seeking international designations to recognise excellence and leadership in fisheries and climate change science.

Defra Permanent Secretary, Clare Moriarty, said:

“The outbreak of diseases in food and farming in the UK and across the world can have devastating consequences on the economy, environment and society. Science plays a critical role in understanding, controlling and eradicating these impacts.  Defra and its agencies have a proven track-record for developing robust systems of prevention, surveillance and response.

“The launch of Cefas’ International Centres of Excellence builds on this strong foundation and brings together world-leading expertise in enabling safe and sustainable seafood production. Their international accreditation rightly reflects the UK’s status as an international science leader in marine and freshwater science."

Defra Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Boyd, added

“The UK’s decision to leave the European Union presents an opportunity for us to develop new innovative approaches to existing science challenges.  It’s a chance for us to explore new, global markets to export our world-leading scientific capabilities and at the same time continue to attract and nurture the world’s top science talent.

“As the UK continues to outside of the EU, it is essential we continue to build our capability in animal and plant health that increasingly supports global trade in safe and sustainable food, both to and from the UK. Cefas’ ambition of developing International Centres of Excellence is a major step towards realising the UK’s international science potential in this arena.”

Cefas Chief Scientist, Professor Stuart Rogers said:

“As the Government’s marine and freshwater science experts, our mission is to help keep our seas and oceans healthy and productive and our seafood safe and sustainable. We do this by providing the best data and advice to the UK Government and our overseas partners. Innovative, world-class science is central to this mission and that of our International Centres, which aim to ensure that our science capability continues to develop and keep step with UK and global science challenges.

“We must continually strive to ensure our science remains excellent in a global, as well as UK context. I look forward to additional International Centres of Excellence, in fisheries and climate change joining these first two, to ensure our science remains excellent across the breadth of Cefas marine and freshwater science.”

The launch of the Aquatic Animal Health Centre of Excellence, builds on last year’s announcement by Environment Secretary Michael Gove of a new Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Futures - a strategic alliance between Cefas and the University of Exeter, with an ambition of bringing together world-leading scientists to ensure the key challenges facing sustainable growth of the fast-growing aquaculture sector are better understood.

The launch of the International Centres of Excellence took place at a workshop to explore the opportunities to promote UK science in human, livestock, aquatic animal and plant health internationally attended by Defra, UK government and industry experts

The workshop was hosted by Professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser, with the specific aims of:

  • charting the collective Defra/UK Government capability in terrestrial, aquatic-animal and plant health science;
  • investigating the opportunity to play an elevated international role in animal and plant health science; and
  • showcasing best practice in international partnerships and setting out the direction of travel for Defra/UK Government’s international research and partnerships.