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

New agriculture and horticulture innovation opportunities

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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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21 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
  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
  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

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