The Hannah Research Institute (HRI) in Ayr, Scotland faces an uncertain future.

The Hannah Research Institute (HRI) in Ayr, Scotland faces an uncertain future following the decision of the Scottish Executive’s Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) to cease core funding from April 2006.  

A final sum of ?2.4 million has been allocated for the 2005-6 financial year.   The action follows critical reports made by SEERAD in 1999 and 2003 on the institute’s research.  

HRI was established in 1928 to provide a research base for the dairy industry, but it has increasingly pursued technological and biomedical work - a pregnant ewe supplied the cells to make Dolly the sheep.   Current programmes cover investigations in food technology, breast cancer, obesity and diabetes, occupying 70 scientific and support staff.  

SEERAD provides ?50 million per annum for biological and environmental research in Scotland and, in a new disbursement strategy published in January 2005, priority for support is given to programmes in environment, agriculture and land use.   Although this remit includes the impact of diet and environment on human health, said a Scottish Executive spokesperson, research at HRI ’is outside the priorities of SEERAD’s new research strategy [due to] the lack of focus on the nutritional influence on health.’   Moreover, the HRI focus was judged, ’not appropriate for direct government support in an institute - it was basic science more suited to an academic environment.’ 

A statement from HRI acknowledges  ’the significant challenge for the institute’ and the need for alternative financial support. ’Despite these uncertainties,’ it stresses, ’HRI remains committed to finding a positive future that will build on the institute’s global reputation for excellence in human health related research.’

 Meanwhile, SEERAD is providing a further ?2.4 million of transitional funding over three years from 2006 to allow HRI scientists to explore opportunities for repositioning their research at other institutions in Scotland. Russ Clare