The James Hutton Institute, home to much of Scotland and the UK’s crop and environment research effort, has announced a seemingly sizeable redundancy programme as it struggles to match its scientific aspirations with its budgeted income.
JHI has a staff of 550 split over two sites. The Mylnefield campus near Dundee, originally the home of Scottish Crop Research Institute, concentrates on crop research while the Aberdeen site, formerly occupied by the Macualay Land Use Research Institute (MLURI), hosts mainly environmental and soil-based work.
JHI and MLURI were merged in 2011 with the process proving much harder than initially envisaged. It took a redundancy programme in 2014 to help level out expenditure with income.
The latest redundancy round, announced last Friday (September 20) looks likely to target scientists more than administrators but as yet there is no indication of the numbers involved or which campus will take the brunt of the cutbacks.
A spokesman said: “The James Hutton Institute is undergoing significant change in how it undertakes its science activities to address the growing need to work in ever more inter-disciplinary and collaborative ways. It has been reviewing its science capacity to align itself more fully with future opportunities, which includes addressing climate change, the forthcoming investment through the Tay Cities Deal and access to new funding sources.
“A revised operating model has been developed in tandem with defining a structure that is affordable to address the current funding constraints.”
These ‘funding constraints’ are in part due to Scottish Government cutbacks and in part from the difficulty of attracting commercial funding.
JHI is due to receive £62m of funding from the long-awaited Tay Cities Deal with £45m coming from the Westminster and £17m from Holyrood.
These funds are earmarked for construction of the International Barley Hub and the Advanced Plant Growth Centre.
The Tay Cities Deal is designed only to support capital projects.
The challenge for JHI chief executive Professor Colin Campbell and his board of governors is to find the funds to meet the recurring annual expenditure linked to these developments, much of which is staff related.
Meanwhile a formal consultation process has commenced with Prospect, the union, about the redundancy proposals.