A funding grant of £1 million from the Wolfson Foundation is propelling Lancaster University's cutting-edge plant science research.
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Funding Grant of £1 Million for Lancaster University Plant Science

Lancaster University’s efforts to address the critical challenges posed by climate change have received a significant boost with a funding grant of nearly £1 million. The prestigious Wolfson Foundation has bestowed this generous funding of £965,000 to establish cutting-edge research facilities at Lancaster Environment Center (LEC). The new facilities, known as the “Wolfson Center for Photosynthetic Diversity,” will play a pivotal role in advancing plant science research and developing solutions to enhance global food security amidst the climate crisis.

The Wolfson Foundation has a long-standing history of supporting Lancaster University. As a testament to their exceptional contributions, the foundation has been inducted into the esteemed Chancellor’s College of Benefactors during the university’s graduation ceremonies on July 19th, 2023. This induction is the highest honor the university bestows upon its supporters, recognizing organizations and individuals whose support has been truly transformative.

Nick Fragel, the Director of Philanthropy, Alumni, and Supporter Engagement at Lancaster University, expressed his gratitude, saying, “The Wolfson Foundation’s visionary support has inspired and empowered generations of UK scientists. Adding to this incredible record, their latest gift to Lancaster University will enable our cutting-edge plant sciences research to contribute even more to countering the climate emergency.”

The grant will be utilized to fund three core elements of the Wolfson Center for Photosynthetic Diversity. Firstly, a state-of-the-art high throughput phenotyping center will be established, providing controlled environments for precise plant growth with custom environmental settings to replicate a global range of potential growth conditions. This facility will employ cutting-edge robotic systems to rapidly monitor plant growth, function, stress, and disease tolerance.

Secondly, a cellular and biochemical suite will be equipped with the latest microscopy and biochemistry tools to analyze photosynthetic efficiency at a fine-scale level. This will enable researchers to delve deep into the intricate workings of plant photosynthesis and gain valuable insights into enhancing its efficiency.

Lastly, the germplasm hub will centralize efforts to translate improved photosynthetic efficiency into germplasm for commercial applications. This hub will facilitate both the creation and long-term curation of germplasm, vital for ensuring sustainable and efficient crop improvement practices.

Dr. Marjorie Lundgren, Senior Research Fellow and UKRI Future Leaders fellow at LEC described the new center as a “synergistic full circle platform for both the discovery and utilization of photosynthetic diversity, which has the potential to revolutionize crop improvement research in the North West.” Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, commended Lancaster University’s assembly of internationally leading researchers in climate change and plant sciences at the Lancaster Environment Center. He emphasized the importance of funding the university’s research into adapting photosynthesis in common crops, as even modest efficiency gains could have a substantial impact on global food security.

The Wolfson Center for Photosynthetic Diversity holds immense promise to push the boundaries of plant science research and significantly contribute to mitigating the challenges of climate change and food security. By understanding and harnessing photosynthetic diversity, scientists can develop innovative approaches to enhancing crop yields and adapting agriculture to the changing climate.

This funding grant marks a remarkable collaboration between the Wolfson Foundation and Lancaster University, exemplifying the power of philanthropy and academic partnership in addressing some of the most pressing global issues. As research at the Wolfson Center for Photosynthetic Diversity progresses, the world will be eagerly awaiting the potential breakthroughs that could shape a sustainable and secure future.

Image provided by The Lancaster Environment Center

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