An open door – the key to success?

Aerial view of Norwich Research Park

Dr Mark Stevens is Lead Scientist at the British Beet Research Organisation, undertaking research designed to increase the competitiveness and profitability of the UK’s beet sugar industry…

The British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) is a non-profit making company set up jointly by British Sugar plc and the National Farmers’ Union. Based in the Innovation Centre at Norwich Research Park, BBRO’s objective is to commission and implement research and technology transfer designed to increase the competitiveness and profitability of the UK beet sugar industry in a sustainable and environmentally acceptable manner.

The UK sugar beet industry is over 100 years old. A strategic crop within the arable rotation, sugar beet is a mainstay of the agricultural economy in many areas of the country. To ensure this critical component of our arable landscape continued to thrive, supporting research and development of the crop was initiated in the 1930’s. To enable this research and development a levy was placed on sugar beet production. Today, the approximately 3,000 growers in the UK (primarily in the Eastern counties) pay 14p per tonne, matched by the processor into this levy, generating between £2 million and £2.2 million per year to define and develop a research programme, which supports the needs of UK growers and industry to enhance yield production, protect the crop and ensure that we can maximise return for the industry.

Historically the BBRO had operated mainly as a grant-giving organisation, but this changed in 2013, at the same time as the organisation moved to Norwich Research Park. I joined BBRO at this point and became Lead Scientist of a small team based at the Park. In addition to that team we also seconded the British Sugar Field Trials Team to assist with variety trial work across over 20 sites from the Humber down to Suffolk. Today, we see ourselves as a hybrid organisation with the mission of engaging, commissioning and implementing research activities in sugar beet around our key pillars of research, namely protection, production, harvest and storage.

Tomorrow… The organisation and what they do