Museum works with top UK scientists to establish next generation crop science and climate change platform

A High-Performance Computing (HPC) platform that will increase the pace of crop science and climate change research has been established by six leading UK research organisations including the Natural History Museum. 

The new HPC cluster is dedicated to the study of crop genetic diversity and will create a pioneering new platform for collaborative and innovative science programmes. It will also enable crop researchers to share data, develop new methods of analysis and deliver training, including supporting the work of more than 400 Bioinformatics scientists across the six partner organisations, including early career researchers and PhD students.

Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and with support from the Scottish Government the project has been led by the crop research organisation NIAB, in partnership with the James Hutton Institute, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Scotland’s Rural College, Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh and the Natural History Museum. The platform includes over 1,700 CPU cores, 15 terabytes of memory and 1.5 petabytes of storage capacity. It will be hosted at the James Hutton Institute’s Aberdeen campus.

Tim Littlewood, the Natural History Museum’s Executive Director of Science said:

'The future of food depends on the best research, and we are very proud to be part of this successful consortium.  Our knowledge of crop genomes will be significantly advanced with powerful computing and advanced bioinformatics, giving the UK real potential for innovation in this key area.  

'This will be a strategic link with the Museum's development of advanced molecular collections for the future, providing the foundation for collaboration on new genomic understanding of both the crops essential for our survival and of their wild relatives.'

Project leader, NIAB’s Professor Mario Caccamo, explains that the HPC cluster will support and expand the work of the entire consortium and their extensive network of collaborators around the world.

'Developments in sequencing and genotyping technologies, together with advances in environmental monitoring and characterisation, are leading to rapid changes in the opportunities that are available to evaluate and utilise genetic diversity in crop plants and their wild relatives, in response to climate change and other global food and farming challenges,' says Professor Caccamo.

He highlights that a major factor in developing the research infrastructure to support and nurture such activities was the provision of access to suitable computational resources.

'The new platform is primarily focused on supporting our work on the characterisation and utilisation of novel genetic diversity, for both the improvement of current agricultural and horticultural crops as well as the breeding of new varieties. Access to advanced bioinformatics and data analysis tools will enable us to manage, model and mine vast amounts of genomic data to identify genetic markers and traits that provide the key to better varieties and new crops,' finishes Professor Caccamo.

ENDS

Notes for editors  

Natural History Media contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5654/ (0)779 969 0151 Email: press@nhm.ac.uk

NIAB EMR contact: Professor Mario Caccamo, Managing Director, mario.caccamo@niab.com, 01732 523711

About the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.  

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes - which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet. 

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome over five million visitors each year, our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years. 

Crop Diversity Bioinformatics HPC Resource

The funding for this project included the BBSRC 18ALERT grant - BB/S019669/1.

About NIAB

NIAB is the UK’s fastest growing crop science organisation, with rapidly expanding research capabilities in plant genetics, agronomy, farming systems and data science, the largest national field trials capability, and strong research links with industry, Government and academia. With headquarters in Cambridge, and regional offices across the country, employing more than 400 people across the UK, NIAB provides scientific research, technical services and practical advice to improve the yield, efficiency and resilience of crop production across the arable, forage and horticulture sectors.

@niabgroup

About James Hutton Institute

The James Hutton Institute is a world-leading, multi-site scientific organisation encompassing a distinctive range of integrated strengths in land, crop, waters, environmental and socio-economic science. The Institute has a staff of nearly 550 and 125 PhD students, and takes its name from the 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment scientist, James Hutton, widely regarded as the founder of geology and agronomist.