• Research

Growing research capability in Colombia

A shared vision on protecting biodiversity to achieve sustainability and peace.

Project summary.

Start date: 01/10/2017

End date: 31/12/2021

Duration: 4 years

Funding: £6.5M

Grant code: BB/P028098/1

Following the peace agreement in Colombia, now is the time to study the country’s staggeringly rich native biodiversity. In an RCUK-funded international collaborative effort, UK-based researchers are working with a network of scientists throughout Colombia to study the genetic diversity within the country’s unique biodiversity, documenting its distribution and the threats it faces.

Colombia is one of the 17 countries considered as “megadiverse” by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the national catalog of biodiversity includes up to 55 thousand species of animals and plants, 3652 of them endemic, representing around 10% of all known species on earth. However, Colombia’s varied habitats, which range from coastal to mountainous and savannah grasslands to rainforest, face a number of modern threats due to logging, agriculture and more.

The multidisciplinary programme aims at strengthening Colombian research capability in the biological sciences, computational biology, and socio-economics to develop robust coordinated activities under a shared vision centred on biodiversity as a means to achieve sustainability and peace. Colombia's biodiversity is not only important for the country's natural heritage and the preservation of unique species in the world, it is also essential for the improvement of human welfare, social equality and economic development.


Biodiversity can be harnessed for social and economic good, and we are collaborating with the relevant government agencies in using the new information that we glean in guiding their plans. With the loss of biodiversity, humankind loses the potential to adapt to future and present challenges, such as population growth and climate change.

We are also scrutinising the genetics of national agricultural crops with a view to making farming more efficient. Understanding biodiversity is essential in order to end hunger and malnutrition, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
We have established an alliance of institutions in the UK and Colombia to deliver three overreaching scientific programmes to understand the key biodiversity issues around:    

1. The natural diversity of organisms and ecosystems in Colombia through characterisation and management of genetic diversity of species, as well as an understanding of changes in biodiversity distribution and conservation status with the long term goal of preventing biodiversity loss.

2. The agricultural diversity of crop species in Colombia through characterising and management of genetic diversity with the long term goal of accelerating breeding and making farming practices more efficient.

3. The socio-economic challenges and impacts associated with the biodiversity development opportunities outlined above with the long term goal of developing key relevant policies and programmes.


The UK and international organisations: the Earlham Institute, IBERS, University of East Anglia, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the Natural History Museum, Sydney University, and the Eden Trust.

In partnership with COLCIENCIAS and Colombia BIO, national institutions and research organisations are committed to the protection of Colombia’s biodiversity and development of the country’s bioeconomy through responsible use of these resources. The Colombian Organisations comprising this Network on initiation are: Instituto Alexander Von Humboldt, CORPOICA, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Universidad de los Andes, Universidad EAFIT, Universidad del Rosario,, Universidad Industrial de Santander, CIAT, CENICAÑA, Cenicafe, CorpoGen, and Jardín Botánico de Cartagena.

Colombian partners.

UK and International partners.

Impact statement.

The initial four-year investment from RCUK’s Global Challenges Research Fund is set to stimulate the bioeconomy by increasing knowledge of Colombia’s greatest treasure, its biodiversity.

The project builds on an alliance of key partner institutions in the UK and Colombia, which aims for research excellence through promoting innovative technologies, developing resilient research capabilities, building partnerships, and fostering best practise in knowledge exchange, with longer-term goals to stimulate economic and social growth. It will help Colombian researchers, industry partners and crop breeders gain the skills needed to drive sustainable innovation and to attract further public and private funding.