Waitrose Collaborative Training Partnership

The logo of the Waitrose Collaborative Training Partnership


Funded by the BBSRC, the Waitrose Collaborative Training Partnership is a unique consortium between Waitrose, its food growers and suppliers and leading academic institutions, led by Lancaster University. Its aim is to innovate to address global food security challenges, with a unifying purpose to train PhD students.


Prof Carly Stevens, WCTP Academic Director, explains:

Research in the Waitrose Collaborative Training Partnership is offered under three interrelated research themes:

  • Sustainable Crop Production
  • Sustainable Soil and Water Resources
  • Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services in Agriculture

The Waitrose Collaborative Training Partnership provides its PhD students with opportunities to work with a develop new technologies and approaches, bringing in new expertise from different disciplines, to revolutionise research in these areas. The CTP aims to develop a cohort of doctoral researchers capable of conducting world-class research that delivers knowledge, innovation and new insights and who have the necessary tools, approaches and competencies to lead in their chosen field.

Results and Outcomes

Tab Content: For Partners and Engagement

Our collaborative training partnership is ongoing, with our PhD students currently working with their respective industry (food grower / supplier) partners. One student, for example, from our first cohort has been working with G’s to develop soil health indicators to inform land management decisions and increase crop yield and quality, this student is currently writing-up their thesis and sharing their finds. Bee nesting resources as the missing element of sustainable crop pollination is the research of a second cohort student, working with Worldwide Fruit to study the habits various bee species, this student is currently collecting data for sharing in the near future. A student from our third cohort is working with Waitrose and using research to consider the question as to whether we reduce the use of single use plastics in food production, whilst another student in the same cohort has recent published a global review regarding the role of insect pollinators in avocado production (https://doi.org/10.1111/jen.12869). A new student this academic year, and part of our cohort four, is working with Produce World to develop novel non-destructive way of detecting internal defects in potatoes.

Our students are also encouraged to experience a non-project related placement in their second year. One of our students is currently with the UK Government Cabinet Office assisting a new evaluation task force involved in advising government in policy and spending. Other students have done non-project related placements with, for example, E4 Environment Ltd (Environmental Consultant / Director), Oak Wood High School (Tutor for The Brilliant Club), Knowledge Transfer Network (Project Manager), and one student has used this opportunity to co-found a start-up company.

Students on the Waitrose Collaborative Training Partnership also experience bespoke joint training events offered by our academic partners (Lancaster, Reading, Warwick and Rothamsted Research) ensuring that they have the skills they need to work in either academia or industry. They also have individual opportunities to attend relevant training courses identified by them as being useful to their research, study taught Masters level modules (MSc Food Security) offered by the Lancaster Environment Centre, and join any research postgraduate training offer by their academic institutions.

Additionally, the Waitrose Collaborative Partnership runs an annual Science Day, which provides our students with the opportunity to showcase their research to industry food producers, giving those producers access to cutting edge science in relevant fields. We also encourage and support student participation at relevant national and international conferences.

“The CTP has enabled us to take a deep dive look at sustainability issues facing our suppliers and growers. This research plays a vital role in combatting some of the challenges we face as an industry and offers the opportunity to bring together our growers and the research community into a closer partnership.” Rebecca Hesketh, Agriculture Manager for Fresh Produce at Waitrose & Partners

“Engaging with the CTP has provided our business access to a wide knowledge base, research sectors and academia that we would not have been able to access. It also provided a full time Phd student resource to focus time and attention on industry problems and seek solutions to these issues that are not normally possible to allocate time to. The CTP has been a benefit to our organisation and the wider produce industry.” Stephen Shields, Technical Director, Huntapac Produce Ltd

Tab Content: For Academics

Learning from the process:

Our first cohort of PhD students is due to complete later this year so academic publications are now being delivered as well as input into the practices of their respect industry (food grower / supplier) partners.

Leading on a collaborative training partnership is extremely rewarding, seeing new research students grow into early career researchers and then moving into academic, start-up and industrial careers, all the while seeking and providing solutions to real-life, real-time food supply challenges. It can also be time consuming, particularly during the COVID pandemic when in the field research was in-accessible and adjustments needed to be made without compromising the research.

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