UofG to lead two prestigious new research alliances

Published: 9 March 2023

The University of Glasgow is to host two of three new collaborative research alliances in Scotland, with a focus on two of the biggest challenges currently for world health: nutrition and food security, and lifelong brain health

The University of Glasgow is to host two of three new collaborative research alliances in Scotland, with a focus on two of the biggest challenges currently for world health: nutrition and food security, and lifelong brain health.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) have launched the Alliances for Research Challenges (ARCs), marking the beginning of a new approach to collaborative research in Scotland. The first three ARCs to be established are for food, brain health and energy, with each project receiving up to £600,000 funding for four years from the SFC. The investment will enable researchers to create multi-disciplinary, cross-sector teams to strengthen and accelerate bids for major research grants, including funding from overseas.

Wolfson Medical Building

The Scottish Alliance for Food, led by Professor Emilie Combet, and the Scottish Brain Health ARC, led by Dr Terry Quinn, will be hosted by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with partners, including fellow higher education institutions and third sector organisations.

The challenges each alliance will address include some of the biggest questions facing governments across the world, such as how to manage food supply chains and how to help people maintain good cognitive health in old age.

Higher Education Minister, Jamie Hepburn, said: “ARCs will connect Scotland’s research excellence to national challenges and will build on our unique collaborative ethos and world-class universities to prime the Scottish landscape to respond to challenge-focused research funding opportunities.

“I look forward to hearing more about the innovative solutions being developed in areas ranging from healthy ageing, quantum technologies, managing our food systems, and energy transition and sustainability as the ARCs progress.”

Helen Cross, SFC’s Director of Research and Innovation, said: “ARCs will make exciting and dynamic links between people, institutions and disciplines. In doing so they will place Scottish research in a strong position to generate new funding through successful bids to research grants in the UK, Europe and beyond.

“The ARCs are also designed to connect the priorities of the Scottish Government with areas of strength within our publicly funded research system.”

Looking to the future, the Scottish Funding Council views ARCs as a fundamental part of a research system that includes Research Pools, Innovation Centres, research institutes, industry partners, third-sector collaborators and policymakers. Also in development is an alliance to examine the best uses of emerging quantum technologies in areas such as computing, communications and healthcare.

The Scottish Alliance for Food (SCAF): health, equity and sustainability

Food is central not only to health, wellbeing and sustainability, but also identity, culture, and economy. Reimagining a healthful, equitable and sustainable food landscape is a priority now more than ever, in the light of major shocks including the climate emergency, the COVID pandemic, Brexit, geopolitical disruptions and the cost-of-living crisis.

The Scottish Alliance for Food (SCAF) is a collaborative initiative bringing together perspectives from social, natural, and applied sciences, arts and humanities, to address critical emerging research questions related to building a better food future for all. Through research, SCAF aims to stimulate collaborations and innovation, develop competencies, and foster knowledge exchange to support evidence-based solutions that benefit society and the environment.

Professors Emilie Combet, project lead from the University of Glasgow’s School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing said: “Creating a fairer, healthier, more sustainable food future is a key priority to ensure health of people and the planet. We are delighted that, with support from the Scottish Funding Council, we will be able to leverage the passion and commitment from a broad group of professionals across sectors and disciplines to innovate and develop research projects focused on delivering impact.

“There is tremendous potential in Scotland to generate answers and solutions to the difficult questions and challenges facing us. SCAF represents an exciting and ambitious new venture bringing together a broad range of perspectives, and we invite everyone interested to be part of this conversation to step forward and join us in our planning and activities.”

Scottish Brain Health ARC

Ageing can be associated with decline in memory and thinking skills, and while most people are familiar with the term ‘dementia’, it is only one of many conditions that may impact on the brain, and represents the final stage of changes that occur over many years. To better help people maintain brain health in old age we need to move beyond the silo thinking around ‘dementia’ and other diseases that has dominated brain research.

In Scotland we are already making progress in researching a broader concept of lifelong brain health. Brain Health is not constrained by a single disease and recognises the potential for active prevention. The aim of this alliance is to create and support new cross sectoral, multidisciplinary collaborations with a shared vision of improving our nation’s brain health, making Scotland the ‘go to’ destination for brain health research, and ultimately finding solutions to the societal challenges associated with brain ageing. The SFC ARC will help us achieve this aim by supporting meetings, early career researcher training, public engagement and many other exciting activities.

Dr Terry Quinn, project lead from the University of Glasgow’s School of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Health said: “This is an important time for brain health research, we have new drugs, new services and the promise of new research investment specific to ageing. Scotland is ideally placed to capitalise on this and has potential to become the world leader in brain health research. With the support of the Scottish Funding Council, I am excited about bringing together researchers, clinicians, policy makers and people with lived experience to create new research projects in the brain health space.”


Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk or elizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

First published: 9 March 2023

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