ZERN Research Network awarded around nine million euros funding
To mark the start of the Research Network Zukunft der Ernährung in Niedersachsen ("Future of Nutrition in Lower Saxony" ZERN), Science Minister Falko Mohrs in Hannover presented the partners in the Network with confirmation of their award for nine million euros from the "zukunft.niedersachsen" programme. This funding will enable the University of Göttingen, the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) and the German Institute of Food Technology (DIL) to develop ways to shape the transformation of the agricultural and food systems in Lower Saxony and thus improve sustainability over the next five years. The focus will be on agriculture, nutrition and the environment and their many interconnections. The results could serve as a model for other regions.
"The ZERN Research Network will produce basic research oriented towards relevant applications via knowledge transfer through real-world practice. This will enable us to support the urgently needed transformation in the agricultural and food sector," says Lower Saxony’s Science Minister Falko Mohrs. "It is only by carrying out research together in an interdisciplinary way and involving practical experience, that we will be able to meet the region’s needs and make sure the transformation of our food systems is sustainable and future-proofed."
"The ZERN Research Network embodies the opportunities offered by the zukunft.niedersachsen programme," says Dr Georg Schütte, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation. "Here, scientists from different disciplines are developing concrete proposals to enable us to feed ourselves into the future in such a way that people, animals and the plant environment can exist in harmony. To achieve this, they cannot be isolated in their -ivory towers-; there must be exchange with consumers. This creates not just new perspectives for individuals, but also for the future of Lower Saxony.-
The ZERN Research Network combines basic research, applied research and knowledge transfer, thereby enabling an overarching understanding of the whole food system - from farm to fork via farmers, food processing and marketing all the way to the consumer. The roles of technology transfer and knowledge communication are crucial to ensure that solutions can be implemented and paths to sustainable and healthy nutrition can be identified.
"Our integrated approach promises a perspective from which we can scientifically examine the most urgent problems of our food system, considering the very real challenges in Lower Saxony," says Professor Bernhard Brümmer from the University of Göttingen. In the first phase, three projects will deal with grassland, arable farming and animal husbandry. "Our Research Network’s approaches which are oriented to actual practice will open up completely new opportunities for interdisciplinary working on urgent topics to secure a sustainable agricultural and food economy," adds Professor Nicole Kemper, TiHo. Junior research groups are also to be specifically integrated into ZERN.
Another goal is to develop and implement innovative technologies. "In our Research Network, we will be able to facilitate the required technology transfer in Lower Saxony’s agricultural and food industry and thus make new plant-based proteins - such as proteins from grasslands and pasture - accessible for human nutrition. This is an important step towards reducing the CO2 emissions of our food systems and shaping a sustainable future," says Dr Volker Heinz, DIL.