Forum spotlights potential of food safety and agri-tech sectors

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the British Council Oman and the UK Science & Innovation Network hosted a science collaboration forum welcoming scientists from universities, research institutions, government entities and established industry experts from the Gulf countries and the UK. The event was held in partnership with Sultan Qaboos University and the Oman Research Council.
Last year, the UK government announced an endowment fund of $3.4 million allocated to eight cutting edge research projects, across six Gulf countries. Through this project, which is part of a wider Gulf, Science, Innovation and Knowledge Economy programme — the UK aims to strengthen its scientific ties between the UK and the Gulf in order to support scientists to work together to find solutions to shared global challenges.
Oman received a fund of $500,000 to tackle the food security project, by developing and demonstrating an innovative method for the expansion of agriculture that significantly reduces fresh water consumption. Scientists from University of Sheffield and Sohar University are currently working on the project and provided updates of their work during the forum.
At Sohar University, a 150 square metres dome has been designed and is now under construction to accommodate all planned tests. Scientists at University of Sheffield are currently working on developing solutions to enable the use of synthetic soils in a protected environment that suits Oman’s climate. The solutions will be tested at the developed facilities at Sohar University in due course.
Suzanne Jones, Gulf Science Innovation & Knowledge Economy Programme Director noted that: “The UK government is committed to continuing to be the go-to place for researchers, innovators and investors from across the world. This forum supports the UK’s ambitions to be both Oman’s and the Gulf’s pivotal partner of choice for its scientists and researchers and will invite open discussions and potential investment to encourage the creation of UK-Gulf collaboration to meet global challenges. We expect to see benefits for Oman, the Gulf and the UK and to open the door for both research, innovation and commercial opportunities. We are, therefore, asking researchers to present their stimulating work and ideas related to meeting the global challenges of agritech, aquaculture and food safety.”
Paul Hilder, Director British Council Oman, commented: “The Science Collaboration Forum is an important event bringing people together from different industries to share knowledge and ideas, which will be useful to Oman, other GCC countries and the UK.
The British Council Oman is proud to be associated with this programme and to see how scientists from the UK and Oman are collaborating to solve shared global challenges. In its second year, the forum has witnessed renewed interest from both the public and private sector.’’
Nicholas Boucher, Head of Science and Innovation Network Gulf said: “The UK Science and Innovation Network were pleased to have helped support and deliver this event as we continue to strengthening the bilateral relationships between Oman and the wider GCC, and the UK, through engagement on science and innovation.
The UK is committed to furthering cooperation in the region, and through research, we are working to support Oman and its neighbours in enhancing their resilience by addressing long-term global threats, including the many challenges pertaining to food security.
We were also delighted by the level of interest in this event which clearly emphasises the importance that the Gulf countries and the UK have placed on the areas of agritech, aquaculture and food safety and the desire to collaborate at both an institutional and government level.’’