The GCRF One Health Poultry Hub reiterates its commitment to quality research and impact activities but acknowledges that funding cuts announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) could jeopardise our objectives of sustaining global nutrition security while reducing risks of zoonotic disease spillover to people.

Last week, in an open letter, UKRI confirmed a massive reduction in its Official Development Assistance allocation from UK Government, a direct result of the decision late last year to reduce UK Aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of Gross National Income. The cut to research and innovation activities is higher than many of us had anticipated and is effective immediately. For 2021-2022, UKRI now has a gap of £120 million in what it has already committed to projects such as ours that are funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) or the Newton Fund.

One Health Poultry Hub Director Professor Fiona Tomley, of the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Professor Dirk Pfeiffer, of the RVC and the City University of Hong Kong, issued a joint statement:

“The prospect of terminations, reprofiling and drastic cuts to ongoing GCRF research programmes is extremely worrying. These kinds of multinational, interdisciplinary networks are tackling some of the most intractable challenges on the planet: issues that affect us all, wherever we live. It is an opportunity where the UK is demonstrating the capability of its world leading science community consistent with the Government’s ‘Global Britain’ policy agenda and its strategic interest in the Indo-Pacific region.

“While we don’t yet know what will happen to our funding, UKRI has expressed a desire to preserve some longer-term programmes in key areas. We are hoping that this includes our Hub.

“In these times of COVID-19, the global relevance of our research and impact activities could not be clearer, in that causal events that occurred in another part of the world ended up affecting even the most remote parts of the UK in dramatic ways.

Pandemic awareness

“The pandemic has raised awareness (once again) that human population growth, intensification of food systems and encroachment on and extraction from natural habitats are the major factors that increase pandemic risk.

“To ‘Build Back Better’ with minimal levels of antimicrobial resistance, foodborne disease and emerging zoonoses, it is vital to address all components that contribute to increase risk and the development of safer and more equitable food animal production systems must be a major priority.

“We will continue in our endeavours until further notice but in light of the current situation are putting new expenditure on hold until we have more detailed information from UKRI.

“Our priorities are to maintain the quality and integrity of our research and impact activities, maintain the trust of our overseas partners and fulfil our duty of care to the many talented people in the UK and overseas who depend on the Hub for their jobs and who are enthusiastically bringing their expertise, skills and knowledge to bear on this global challenge.”

The Hub and UK Government policy