The Tech Directorate Innovation Pump Priming Fund Goes Down on the Farm

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Duncan Robertson, Jan Rogers and Rob Smith at the University dairy farm
L-R: Duncan Robertson, Jan Rogers, Rob Smith & the young Ermintrude (for all aficionados of “The Magic Roundabout")

Written by Dr Duncan Robertson, Head of the Technology Directorate

One of the things I love about my role as Head of the TD is the unusual places I get to visit. The latest in a long line, which has included an algae factory and St James’s Palace, was a very enjoyable visit to the University Dairy Farm on the Leahurst Campus.

I have to admit that until I visited I didn’t even know the University had a dairy farm but they do and it’s very impressive. Our host, Professor Rob Smith gave us a very detailed tour of all the different areas, which included introducing us to some seriously cute calves (see pic).

Whilst the farm contributes to teaching Veterinary students, it is primarily a working farm and indeed has been made a Tesco Dairy of Excellence. I was amazed to discover it produces 7000 litres of milk a day. More impressively, the milk I saw being collected at 4pm on a Friday will be picked up at midnight and be in bottles on the supermarket shelves the following day.

Enjoyable though it was, there was a serious reason for visiting. Arcis Biotechnology, an SME based in Daresbury, successfully applied to the Technology Directorate Innovation pump-priming fund to undertake some Atomic Force Microscopy on its novel DNA extraction and testing kit, in collaboration with AFM experts Luning Liu and Jorge Rodriguez Ramos on the Liverpool campus.

During the course of this work, it emerged that Jan Rogers, the Chief Scientific Officer of Arcis, had identified the dairy market as target for expansion but required some expert knowledge. Through its extensive network of contacts in the University, the TD was able to arrange for Jan to meet Rob Smith, an internationally renowned dairy expert. She also saw how milk from sick cows is sampled at first hand, by getting up close and personal!

Speaking to me after the visit Jan said, “The Technology Directorate Award has proved extremely useful to the company. We now know much more about how one of our products works but perhaps more importantly, have also identified a new market to move into. The visit to the farm was superb and Rob Smith was a very friendly and knowledgeable host. We’re very keen to develop the relationship between Arcis and the University”

I was moooved.