Scotland’s new ‘super’ institute for scientific research was launched at the Royal Society of Edinburgh last week.
The James Hutton Institute will be a major centre of research for a wide range of scientific disciplines, from environmental science to social economics and computer science.
It is named after the founder of modern geology James Hutton, a University of Edinburgh graduate who became a key figure in the 18th century Enlightenment.
The institute brings together two existing Scottish institutions, the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) near Dundee and the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen. The SCRI specializes in potato and soft fruit breeding, pest and disease control, food quality and genetics. The Macaulay centre focuses on land use and sustainable development.
The new 'super' institute is the first body of its type in Europe, with the potential to become a world-leader in agricultural and environmental science. Its projects will include improving crop yields, developing sustaining farming methods and creating a low-carbon economy.
Professor Bill McKelvey, chief executive and principal of the Scottish Agricultural College, told The Journal: “The Institute will bring a renewed focus in Scotland to the scientific challenges that must be answered if we are to properly feed the burgeoning world population in a sustainable manner.
“The Institute will work alongside the existing family of land-based research organisations in Scotland… to provide direct policy advice to government and scientific solutions to a number of problems.”
The SCRI and Macaulay centre formerly employed three hundred staff between them with a combined income of £33 million. The James Hutton Institute will employ around six hundred scientists along with research and support staff.
The SCRI has international development links in Africa and trade links with China and the Macaulay centre is active in 40 countries.
A spokesperson for the James Hutton Institute told The Journal: “Macaulay and SCRI fit together very well. Due to the different areas of research there isn't much overlap.
“There are not many applied research institutes of this kind in Europe thus in coming together it gives the institute a European and global footing.”