Future of Forestry Research Meeting
24th August 2017 – Silvan House, Edinburgh.
One of the few constants in the recent discussions and consultations on the future role of the Forestry Commission across the UK, has been the need for a well-resourced and UK wide approach to forestry research in general, and support for Forest Research in particular.
An increasing number of research organisations are now interested in the environmental and social benefits of well managed and expanding forests; in Scotland alone this includes the James Hutton Institute, and SRUC who are particularly focussed on the potential of agroforestry. Edinburgh University have also recently re-opened their forestry school, but primarily with a focus on research rather than teaching.
How does the UK’s private forestry sector engage with these researchers and help define research needs, and ensure that it includes the less fashionable topics such as improved ground preparation or thinning intensity.
These challenges were the priority when I sat down with Roger Coppock of the Forestry Commission and Shireen Chambers of the ICF to plan a workshop that will hopefully be the start of improved engagement, between those interested in the outcomes and output of forestry research and those people who can supply that research.
Twenty five people from across the UK, and from a wide range of organisations met recently in Edinburgh, to agree the basics of a collaborative approach to forestry research. A key part of the meeting was hearing from existing collaborative development projects in the forestry sector, this included the Timber Transport Forum, the Hylobius Plant Protection Group and Strategic Integrated Research in Timber. The recently established National Tree Improvement Strategy (NTIS) is another possible model which could be replicated, NTIS has brought together a diverse group of stakeholders and has already been successful in raising external funding.
The importance of the sector speaking “with one voice” will be essential if we are to target ever reducing government funding or to be successful with external funders. The potential for companies to offset some of the costs of research and development against tax was highlighted by accountancy specialist Samantha Wildman of the MPA group who spoke at the workshop.
Several companies are already involved in key forestry and timber research areas, for example, Tilhill and Maelor Nursery with weevil control, and James Jones & Sons on a range of innovative timber technologies. Finding the right balance between intellectual property, company funding and collaboration will be important discussions as we move forward.
More detailed notes and outputs from the meeting are being written up; but a date for a follow up meeting has already been set and will be held in Edinburgh on November 22nd. We are fortunate in our timing as we will be able to use these meetings to feed into the forthcoming review of the Science and Innovation strategy for forestry. If you would like to attend the meeting or simply to be added to the mailing list please get in touch.