Major funding grant will deliver new cutting-edge plant science labs at Lancaster University

Plant scientist

A funding grant of almost £1m will help deliver new plant science research facilities at Lancaster University.

The £965,000 funding from the Wolfson Foundation will be used to set up new facilities at Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) to study how plants respond to different environmental conditions.

In turn, the new ‘Wolfson Centre for Photosynthetic Diversity’ will help develop solutions to improve food security in response to the climate crisis.

In recognition of its long history of support for the University, the Wolfson Foundation was installed into the Lancaster University ‘Chancellor’s College of Benefactors’ as part of graduation ceremonies on 19 July.

Admission to the Chancellor’s College of Benefactors is the highest honour the University can bestow upon its supporters and is a way to give greater recognition to organisations and individuals whose contributions have been truly transformational.

Nick Fragel, Director of Philanthropy, Alumni, and Supporter Engagement at Lancaster University, said: “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 fund three core elements. A high throughput phenotyping centre will provide controlled environments for precision plant growth with bespoke environmental settings that can replicate a global range of possible growth conditions, and cutting-edge robotic systems to rapidly monitor whole plant growth, function, and stress and disease tolerance. A cellular and biochemical suite will collate the latest microscopy and biochemistry tools to phenotype photosynthetic efficiency at a fine-scale. The germplasm hub will centralise efforts to translate improved photosynthetic efficiency into germplasm for commercial applications, encompassing both the creation and long-term curation of germplasm.

Dr Marjorie Lundgren, Senior Research Fellow and UKRI Future Leaders fellow at LEC, said: “Our Wolfson Centre for Photosynthetic Diversity is a synergistic full circle platform for both the discovery and utilisation of photosynthetic diversity, which has potential to revolutionise crop improvement research in the North West.”

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation added: “The University has assembled an impressive group of internationally leading researchers in climate change and plant sciences at the Lancaster Environment Centre.

“We are very pleased to fund much needed equipment for their research into adapting photosynthesis in common crops – where even modest efficiency gains could have a huge impact on global food security.”

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