Monthly Archives: May 2013

New method for assessing future tree and plant disease risks

ash-treeA new method for assessing the impacts and risks of potential future tree and plant pest and disease outbreaks has been developed by Professor Robert Fraser, of the School of Economics, as one of the key recommendations of today’s (20 May) government report into biosecurity.

Professor Fraser developed the new methodology as one of ten experts from leading
universities sitting on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) Tree
Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce.

The Taskforce’s final report includes a recommendation to develop a ‘prioritised UK Plant Health Risk Register’ – which suggests use of a new ‘horizon-scanning’ methodology developed by Professor Fraser – as one of its key findings.

Professor Fraser said: ‘My role on the Taskforce was very much one of looking ahead and finding a way of assessing impacts and prioritising the risks of future pest and disease outbreaks.

‘One of the Taskforce’s major objectives, as well as looking at ways the UK could strengthen its responsiveness and preparedness, was to find a way of assessing future economic, social and environmental impacts.

‘That way, we can more effectively plan how to prioritise our spending to tackle future tree and plant pest and disease outbreaks.’

The Taskforce was chaired by Professor Christopher Gilligan of the University of Cambridge, and reported to Professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser. It was established following the incursion of the Chalara pathogen into the UK from the European continent, which killed many ash trees.

Robert Fraser is Professor of Agricultural Economics within the University of Kent’s School of Economics.

Read the Taskforce’s Final Report here.

For further information or interview requests contact the Press Office at the University of Kent

Tel: 01227 823100/823581


Debate over ‘Boris Island’ set to continue, despite report rejection

planeProfessor Roger Vickerman, a leading specialist in transport economics at the School of Economics, says the debate over Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s proposal for a new hub
airport in the Thames Estuary will continue to ‘cast a blight over north Kent’, despite its rejection
in a new MP’s report.

The House of Commons Transport Committee warned that any new estuary hub airport would
entail ‘huge public expense’ and would also require the closure of Heathrow.

Professor Vickerman said: ‘I agree fully with the report’s findings that there is a need for additional runway capacity, that the urgent priority is for this to be part of a hub-airport strategy, and that the government’s current timetable for taking a decision is too protracted for the scale of the problem.

‘The most controversial aspect of the report is its clear recommendation for the expansion of Heathrow and its rejection of a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary. The main concern is that the report makes a clear case for a third runway at Heathrow, but if Heathrow is really to work in the long-term it needs a thorough re-modelling into a four-runway airport.

‘This would take much longer to achieve and it is on these grounds that the appeal for a completely new airport rests. The Committee has helped to narrow the realistic choices faced by the Airports Commission, but I suspect the Heathrow versus Thames Estuary argument will continue to rage – and cast a blight over large parts of north Kent – for some time to come.

Professor Vickerman is Professor of European Economics at the University of Kent’s School of Economics and Director of its Centre for European, Regional and Transport Economics. He is also Dean of its Brussels School of International Studies.

Economics student wins two Santander competitions

ryan-englandRyan England, a final-year economics student, impressed the judges with his convincing business idea, breath.loud, during the University’s ‘Big Ideas’ presentations on 21 March sponsored by Santander Bank.

Not only did Ryan win a fully-funded trip to the USA to represent Kent in the prestigious ‘Global Student Business Concept Challenge’, but also a fully-funded office in the Kent Enterprise Hub for one year upon graduation, support from a Santander business mentor and £500 to help with start-up costs.

Seven teams out of a total 46 applications from across the University were shortlisted and presented their business ideas to a panel of four judges. These included Gareth Anderson, Relationship Director at Santander Bank; Gill Smaggasgale, Partner at patent attorneys WP Thompson; Dr Gary Robinson, Senior Commercialisation Manager at the University; and Carole Barron, Director of Innovation and Enterprise at Kent.

Despite the tough competition, the judges were unanimous in their decision. Ryan’s business idea to customise and improve the appearance of asthma inhalers, with a view to aiding the acceptance of asthma among children, together with a well thought through business case, financial projections, presentation and competence during the question and answer session left the judges with no room for doubt.

Ryan said: ‘I can’t believe I’ve won. I am so excited about this fantastic opportunity and especially representing the University in Virginia in August. It’ll be a real privilege to go.’

The University has participated in the Global Challenge for the past three years and achieved the runners-up prize twice. If Ryan wins the ‘Global Student Business Concept Challenge’, he will receive a cash prize of $25,000. Ryan’s business idea will also be entered by the University in the Santander Entrepreneurship Awards later this year.

To find out more about business competitions and student enterprise activities, email