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Americas: Mars, university to create institute for breakthroughs

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The University of California (UC), Davis, through its World Food Center, and Mars, Inc. have on September 17, 2014 agreed to pursue the establishment of a new institute designed to deliver Silicon Valley-type 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 and Health prior to its launch in January 2015.

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

“The Innovation Institute for Food and 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 UC Davis World Food Center.

Mars will commit at least US$40 million to support the new institute over 10 years, and UC Davis will provide US$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 and Health will facilitate this approach.”

Links between UC Davis and Mars date back as much as 40 years.

Over this time, Mars has collaborated with UC Davis 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.

Story by Andy Fell from UC Davis.