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https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2021/08/13/new-agriculture-and-horticulture-innovation-opportunities/

New agriculture and horticulture innovation opportunities

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Payments for research and innovation

Why does innovation in farming matter?

Innovation is a vital way to address the challenges currently facing the agricultural and horticultural sectors. New ideas, technologies and processes will play a key role in helping farmers, growers and businesses to become more productive. They will also enable the sector to be more environmentally sustainable and resilient, whilst helping it achieve its Net Zero ambitions.

What is the competition about?

In October 2021, Defra will launch the first competitions of our new Industry-led R&D Partnerships fund. This is the first of three different funds to launch in Defra’s new Farming Innovation Programme. 

Through this fund, we want to encourage groups of farmers, growers, businesses and researchers to get involved in collaborative research and development. We believe that by working together, they will be able to solve challenges and exploit opportunities for increasing productivity and environmental sustainability in the agricultural and horticultural sectors in England.

The Farming Innovation Programme will also support knowledge exchange between farmers, growers, businesses, and researchers. This will enable the results and learnings from the projects to be shared widely and will still benefit those who cannot directly take part in the competitions. 

Who will deliver it?

The Industry-led R&D Partnerships fund will be delivered in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), building on the success of their £90m Transforming Food Production Challenge. This will also expand on our partnership with UKRI for the Farming Innovation Pathways competition launched earlier this year.

What funding is available?

There will be four types of competitions within the Industry-led R&D Partnerships fund, which are designed to encourage applications from a wide range of groups, sectors and regions. Each competition will offer different scales of funding. Project teams will be able to apply for grants towards the total project costs, while providing some of their own match funding. Competitions are summarised in the table below.

Competition Name Timing Length & funding Outline of aims
Research Starter Projects Launching October 2021 Projects up to 12 months 

Total project costs between £28k - £56k

To help farmers and growers with bold, ambitious early-stage ideas develop them further and build a collaborative team – for those who haven’t previously received Innovate UK funding
Feasibility Projects Launching October 2021 Projects up to 2 years

Total projects costs of between £200k - £500k

To test the feasibility of early-stage solutions and to inform decisions on subsequent larger scale R&D projects
Small R&D Partnership Projects Launching October 2021 Projects up to 3 years

Total project costs of between £1m - £3m

To carry out R&D for innovative solutions that have the potential to substantially improve overall productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector
Large R&D Partnership Projects Launching early 2022 Projects up to 4 years 

Total projects costs of between £3m - £5m

Larger-scale R&D and demonstration of solutions that have the potential to substantially improve overall productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector

Who can apply for funding?

You could be a farmer or grower with an exciting idea that will benefit England's farming sector, or for our larger projects, a group of agri-businesses wanting to collaborate with other businesses, researchers and end-users to develop and commercialise your innovative product. You might even be a business from outside the sector with a game-changing idea for English farming. Whether you have participated in multiple research projects before, or you want to test out an innovative idea for the first time, we want you to get involved! Look out for more details on who can take part, and how, later in the summer.

When do the competitions open and how long will they be open for?

The competitions will open to applicants in early October, and we will be sharing lots more information in the early autumn. This will include briefing events, detailed guidance on eligibility requirements and how to apply, and support to form partnerships with other applicants. 

The competitions will be open to applications for 6-7 weeks, with different closing dates for each competition. But the Farming Innovation Programme is a long-term funding programme, and we will be launching lots more new and exciting competitions for ambitious R&D on a regular basis over the coming years.

How does the application process work?

The application process will vary depending on which type of project you are applying for: a simple application for the Research Starter Projects and Feasibility Projects, and a more detailed application process for the Small and Large R&D Partnership Projects. The latter includes a written application, followed by an interview for shortlisted applications. 

All applications will be reviewed by independent expert assessors, with relevant industry or academic expertise.

How can I find out more?

We will be sharing lots more information about the Industry-led R&D Partnerships fund and how to apply before the competitions open in October. We'll also be providing a first look at the exciting projects we have funded in the Farming Innovation Pathways competition. Make sure you’re signed up to Defra’s e-alerts and follow Defra, UKRI and Innovate UK on Twitter to keep up to date with news and alerts for our upcoming competitions.

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49 comments

  1. Comment by John hawkins posted on

    Please send all farmers and land managers a list of agricultural specialist bid writers who can help us deliver our innovative projects and maybe pay them a grant co funded by ourselves to help us put our applications into a format that results in success because between now and oct most of us are on the coalface delivering harvested food and do not have spare capacity to write bids without staff support. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Replies to John hawkins>

      Comment by Leah Segal posted on

      Hi John, thanks for this! We have been working to make sure the application process is as easy and accessible as possible, with support on hand to help develop your ideas. In October, we’ll invite you to put forward your ideas for the Research Starter Projects by answering a small number of questions. So that there is no need for bid writers or applicants to spend lots of time developing a lengthy application, we’ll invite you to do this by recording a short video response to each question. We will make sure these can be easily recorded on a smart phone, and more information will be provided on how to do so. Independent assessors will then select the most promising ideas (they will be evaluating the content of the video and not it’s quality or creativity). Successful applicants will then be linked up with an ‘innovation broker’, who will help them to develop their idea into a project and build a project team. As ever, we will be closely evaluating the success of this new type of competition so that we can continually improve in future.

      Reply
      • Replies to Leah Segal>

        Comment by John hawkins posted on

        I think i need to pay for a professional bid writer then!!

        Reply
        • Replies to John hawkins>

          Comment by Felicidad Fernández posted on

          Contact a research organization working on this area to partner up with and they will be able to support the writing of the bid. We do it all the time.

          Reply
          • Replies to Felicidad Fernández>

            Comment by John hawkins posted on

            Thanks everyone we now have a brilliant bid writting team lined up! Just need the competition to launch and we can forge ahead!

  2. Comment by Marina Rae posted on

    We would like to hear more on this for our start up Just Jerseys Micro Dairy here in Shropshire

    Reply
    • Replies to Marina Rae>

      Comment by Leah Segal posted on

      Hi Marina, it's great that you're interested in these competitions! We'll be sharing more information on our first competitions in the coming weeks, so the best ways to learn more are by signing up to Defra’s e-alerts (https://preferences.mailshot.defra.gov.uk/), and following Defra, UKRI and Innovate UK on Twitter.

      Reply
  3. Comment by KEVIN WELLS posted on

    Does this call cover livestock innovations?

    Reply
    • Replies to KEVIN WELLS>

      Comment by Leah Segal posted on

      Hi Kevin, thanks for this! Yes, the Farming Innovation Programme will fund research and innovation that increases the productivity and environmental sustainability of the agricultural and horticultural sectors, including livestock innovations.

      Reply
  4. Comment by Paul Lindop posted on

    Do you have a list of prior R&D projects so that we can build on them and see what qualifies as R&D?

    Reply
  5. Comment by Leah Segal posted on

    Hi Paul!

    As this is a new programme, we don’t have a list of projects for this competition yet. However, you may want to take a look at some of the projects underway in UKRI’s Transforming Food Production challenge (https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2020/11/16/transforming-food-production-our-journey-so-far/), which gives a taster of the types of projects we are looking to fund.

    In the next few weeks, we will also be announcing the exciting projects we have funded through our Farming Innovation Pathways competition (see an earlier blog post about it here: https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2021/03/22/how-were-encouraging-innovation-in-farming/), so please subscribe to the blog and follow us on Twitter to make sure you see those.

    Reply
  6. Comment by Sam Hoste posted on

    Please do you have information on the 'Innovation brokers'? Are you seeking innovation brokers?

    Reply
    • Replies to Sam Hoste>

      Comment by Leah Segal posted on

      Hi Sam, thanks for this question! We will provide full details on the competition scope and operation, including the innovation broker role, when the competition is launched. In addition to an official competition briefing, the KTN will provide a more hands on workshop providing information about the competition and how to apply. Further details on briefing events will be provided in the next few weeks.

      Reply
  7. Comment by Michelle Morrison posted on

    Hi. At this point do you have any idea of likely project start dates, which month? Thanks

    Reply
    • Replies to Michelle Morrison>

      Comment by Leah Segal posted on

      Hi Michelle, thanks for this question! We are currently expecting the successful projects from the first competitions to be able to start in May / June 2022, although this timing may change slightly as it depends on all the necessary checks being completed. As this is a long-term funding programme, we will also be launching lots more new and exciting competitions in future years.

      Reply
  8. Comment by Jon West posted on

    Regarding the Research Starter Projects: Who are the 'innovation brokers' and will they have in-depth knowledge of the wealth of expertise we have in the UK's Universities and Research Institutes? How is the brokering process going to be transparent and fair?

    Reply
    • Replies to Jon West>

      Comment by Leah Segal posted on

      Hi Jon, thanks for this. We will provide full details on the competition scope and operation, including the innovation broker role, when the competition is launched. In addition to an official competition briefing, the KTN will provide a more hands on workshop providing information about the competition and how to apply. Further details on briefing events will be provided in the next few weeks. We are confident in the expertise and fairness of this process, and will be continually seeking to refine and improve it as the competitions go on.

      Reply
      • Replies to Leah Segal>

        Comment by Jon West posted on

        Thanks Leah for your reply - looking forward to learning more at the briefing events

        Reply
  9. Comment by Toby Warren posted on

    Like others I would like to know more about the innovation brokers and how they are being appointed. Also, I'm concerned about the emphasis on having to make a video response. You say that content rather than quality and creativity will matter, but human nature being what it is, a well produced video will be more impressive than one with poor sound and vision and a nervous presenter. Your approach may favour those who can 'talk the talk' rather than those who can 'walk the talk'.

    Reply
    • Replies to Toby Warren>

      Comment by Leah Segal posted on

      Hi Toby, thanks for your questions. As mentioned in other responses, we will provide full details on the competition scope and operation, including the innovation broker role, when the competition is launched. In response to your second point, video applications will be marked against specific criteria, which will ensure that the assessors are focused on the content of the application rather than any stylistic features.

      Reply
  10. Comment by WB posted on

    Hello what is the total funding available for this program.

    Reply
    • Replies to WB>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hello WB,

      More details of overall funding levels will be published when we release the competition briefings shortly.

      Subscribe to the blog for the latest news: https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/subscribe/

      Joss
      Policy Adviser - Innovation Team

      Reply
  11. Comment by Amanda Carson posted on

    will animal disease testing be covered within these projects. With previous grants testing has not been available.

    Reply
    • Replies to Amanda Carson>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hi Amanda,

      We recently published a post on The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway which you might find helpful. The programme is set to start in Spring 2022 with a vet visit. This will be paid for by the government. They will undertake a health and welfare review of the farm, including diagnostic testing, to set the foundations for the journey along the Pathway. The initial focus will be on improving disease prevention and controlling or eradicating an industry agreed list of diseases in each species. Having completed this first step, farmers will continue along the Pathway supported by Animal Health and Welfare grants which will be launched later in 2022 (more on these in October). Here's a link to the full post: https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2021/09/09/introducing-the-animal-health-and-welfare-pathway/

      Best wishes,
      Sarah

      Reply
  12. Comment by Holly Jones posted on

    Do you know more about when the briefings for this programme will be launched or do you have a contact at the KTN who could help? If the programme is due to launch in October and the application period is 6-7 weeks it would be useful to get some further info soon so we can prepare.

    Thanks very much.

    Reply
    • Replies to Holly Jones>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hi Holly,

      The application briefings, along with details of UKRI’s briefing events will be published shortly. The Knowledge Transfer Network have released details of some online events on 13th and 14th October. Here is a link to their events: https://ktn-uk.org/knowledge-centre/events/

      Joss
      Policy Adviser - Innovation Team.

      Reply
  13. Comment by Alison Wakeham posted on

    Are you able to expand on your vision / definition of match funding and whether on a sliding scale based on your business size etc.

    Reply
  14. Comment by Georgina.Robinson posted on

    Hi,

    I am a researcher based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, Scotland. Would a Scottish academic institute be eligible as the lead organisation for this funding scheme? There will be partners in all 4 devolved nations but the funding seems to be focused on England.

    Many thanks

    Georgina Robinson

    Reply
    • Replies to Georgina.Robinson>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hello,

      While the Farming Innovation Programme’s funds must primarily benefit England’s agricultural and horticultural sectors, we recognise that the UK has world-leading science and research expertise which operates across our shared borders.

      Applications will therefore be welcome from UK-wide universities, research organisations, and agri-businesses to collaborate on ambitious research and development projects that will drive up the productivity and sustainability of England’s agricultural and horticultural sectors.

      With regards to project leads, projects in the ‘Industry-led Research and Development Partnerships Fund’ must be led by businesses, whilst UK-wide research organisations or academic institutions can collaborate.

      For the Research Starter Projects, only farmers, growers and foresters based in England can lead a project.

      For the Feasibility and Small Research and Development Partnership Projects, businesses from across the UK may lead a project, but at least 50% of the farmers, growers or foresters involved should be based in England.

      Joss
      Policy Adviser - Innovation Team

      Reply
  15. Comment by Jason posted on

    Is this funding only for food related crop? Does energy crop in scope for this funding opportunity?

    Reply
    • Replies to Jason>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your question. Unlike in our recent ‘Farming Innovation Pathways’ competition, the Farming Innovation Programme does not require that projects focus on food production. We will welcome projects that focus on the efficient and sustainable production of energy crops and biomass in agricultural systems.

      Joss
      Policy Adviser - Innovation Team

      Reply
  16. Comment by paul posted on

    Is the funding accessible for businesses and research organisations in Wales? If so would there have to be collaborators in England as part of the partnership too?

    Reply
    • Replies to paul>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for your query. Whilst the Farming Innovation Programme’s funds must primarily benefit England’s agricultural and horticultural sectors, we recognise that the UK has world-leading science and research expertise which operates across our shared borders.

      Applications will therefore be welcome from UK-wide universities, research organisations, and agri-businesses to collaborate on ambitious research and development projects that will ultimately drive up the productivity and sustainability of England’s agricultural and horticultural sectors.

      A Welsh business could lead a project in the Feasibility or Small Research and Development Partnership Projects, as long as the project was focussed on developing a solution for an issue relevant to farmers and growers in England. We also ask that where farmers, growers or foresters are involved in project teams, at least 50% of them be based in England.

      Joss
      Policy Adviser - Innovation Team

      Reply
  17. Comment by David Hall posted on

    How will the projects be funded re business/RTO's/academic?

    Reply
  18. Comment by H.Kitchener posted on

    Hello Does the funding cover UV B & C to control pest & disease on horticultural crops under protection ?

    Reply
    • Replies to H.Kitchener>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hello. I'm a policy adviser in the Innovation Team. Thanks for your question! New innovative methods for controlling pests and diseases in controlled environment agriculture will certainly be in scope of the Farming Innovation Programme. Joss

      Reply
  19. Comment by Dan posted on

    I don't suppose these are available to Scottish growers?

    Reply
    • Replies to Dan>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hello Dan, I'm a policy adviser in the Innovation Team.

      Whilst the Farming Innovation Programme’s funds are focussed on benefitting England’s agricultural and horticultural sectors, we recognise that the UK has world-leading science and research expertise which operates across our shared borders. Applications will therefore be welcome from UK-wide universities, research organisations, and agri-businesses to collaborate on ambitious research and development projects that will drive up the productivity and sustainability of agriculture and horticulture in England. Where farmers, growers or foresters are directly involved in a project, we ask that at least 50% of them in the team are based in England.

      Thanks for visiting the blog and for your question.
      Joss

      Reply
  20. Comment by Christopher Riordan posted on

    Appreciate some what naïve, but would not say a list of the top 100 "...challenges currently facing the agricultural and horticultural sectors" be useful. Particular for people, businesses, who may have a wealth of experience in a particular useful domain (for me the application of information technology, including using computers to control /monitor systems) but have no idea/knowledge of the problems. Such information would possibly ensure the best return on funding through realistic projects, as well as measurable outcomes?

    Reply
    • Replies to Christopher Riordan>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hi Christopher, I'm a policy adviser in the Innovation Team. Thanks for visiting the blog and for your question.

      We don’t expect all of the organisations that are interested in this programme to have an in-depth knowledge of the issues facing the sectors, and we want to empower our farmers, growers and foresters to overcome issues that are holding them back.

      During the application stage, there will be opportunities for you to be involved in a ‘consortium-building event’, run by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) where you can network with problem holders to identify areas where you can help and discuss how you can collaborate. Details on the KTN events can be found here: https://ktn-uk.org/knowledge-centre/events/.

      Further details on events and ways to contact the team will be made available shortly, so do subscribe to the blog if you haven't already.

      Reply
  21. Comment by graham posted on

    is this open to overseas companies/farmers with innovative solutions and farming technology suitable for but not tested in the U.K. type climate to increase crop yields and quality of general vegetables/herbs and crops for medicinal plants in climate controlled growing?
    Do we need a local farm or technology partners?
    Thanks
    Graham

    Reply
    • Replies to graham>

      Comment by Joss Wallace posted on

      Hi Graham, I'm a policy adviser in the Innovation Team. Thank you for your question. In these competitions, to be involved in a project, you must be a UK-registered: business, academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public-sector organisation or research and technology organisation. Overseas subcontractors can be involved in projects, but you must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

      Reply
  22. Comment by Jamie Oliver posted on

    Will Aquaculture business and projects be eligible for funding through this scheme, where they are farming shrimp and selling these to other food producers across the UK?

    Reply
  23. Comment by Alison Davis posted on

    Hello,
    Will university researchers be able to collaborate on the Feasibility projects? And will there be a cap on funding for research organisations/ universities across all project scales? If so can you confirm this split?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Replies to Alison Davis>

      Comment by Niall Bradshaw posted on

      Hi Alison, thanks for your query.

      University researchers will certainly be able to collaborate on Feasibility projects. Details of the cap on funding for Research Organisations and Universities will be provided when the competition text is released shortly.

      Best wishes,
      Niall (Innovation Team)

      Reply
  24. Comment by Tom posted on

    Hi there, has this competition been launched and, if not, is s there an expected commencement date?

    Reply
  25. Comment by Kerry Brown posted on

    Hello,

    Would you be able to give an update about when the competition text (more details) for this call will be released?

    Thanks

    Reply

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