UC-Davis, Mars to establish institute for food, ag, health

UC-Davis and Mars announce plans to create first-of-its-kind innovation institute focusing on food, ag and health.

The University of California-Davis, through its World Food Center, and Mars Inc. announced an agreement to pursue the establishment of a new institute designed to deliver big-impact breakthroughs in food, agriculture and health.

An independent advisory committee chaired by Bruce German, professor of food science and technology at UC-Davis, will facilitate the design and development of the Innovation Institute for Food & Health prior to its launch in January 2015.

The institute will become the innovation arm of the World Food Center at UC-Davis and will advance new discoveries in sustainable food, agriculture and health along the entire innovation process, from laboratory research to commercialization.

"Establishing the Innovation Institute for Food & Health will mark a great step forward in addressing the sustainability challenges we face at the nexus between food, agriculture and health," UC-Davis chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said. "We are proud to be at the forefront of this multidisciplinary and multifunctional effort to confront these issues head on through innovation at scale."

"The Innovation Institute for Food & Health will use the World Food Center's infrastructure to provide an inclusive environment that brings in a variety of partners. We see great opportunities to collaborate across the UC system and beyond," said Roger Beachy, executive director of the World Food Center.

Mars will commit a minimum of $40 million to support the new institute over 10 years, and UC-Davis will provide $20 million over the same time period.

"The global food and agriculture system has a profound impact on several key sustainability areas, from climate change to food security," said Harold Schmitz, chief science officer at Mars and senior scholar in management at the UC-Davis Graduate School of Management. "To make true progress on these issues, we will have to partner across sectors to drive and scale transformational innovation; the Innovation Institute for Food & Health will facilitate this approach."

Links between UC-Davis and Mars date back as far as 40 years and have resulted in collaborations on several scientific research projects related to agriculture, food, nutrition, biology and veterinary health. This has included sequencing the cacao genome in 2010 and founding the African Orphan Crops Consortium — both international programs aimed at improving yield, productivity and climatic adaptability of key crops.

The UC-Davis World Food Center was established in 2013 to increase the economic benefit from campus research, influence national and international policy and convene teams of scientists and innovators from industry, academia, government and non-governmental organizations to tackle food-related challenges in California and around the world.

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