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Food for thought – Up to £20 million available to increase productivity and sustainability in crop and ruminant agriculture systems

As head of Agriculture here at PKF Francis Clark, I am always pleased to see initiatives aimed at the sector – as you can sometimes feel that for all the effort and resource aimed at the more “trendy or sexy” sectors (space and AI etc.) we must not forget that we need food… or as the news story for the £20 million grant fund for projects to transform how the agri-food sector says:

“Due to the continued growth in global population, the UK, alongside many other countries, needs to produce more food. However, agricultural production issues such as costs and environmental factors mean we must do so in ways that are significantly more efficient, resilient and sustainable.”

The competition, run by UK Research and Innovation, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will invest up to £20 million in innovation projects. The competition opens next Monday (20 August) and closes on 24 October 2018.

The transforming food production challenge

This £20 million funding competition is one element of the transforming food production challenge, which looks to bring together the agri-food sector with expertise in real-time robotics sensing, data, AI and earth observation. The aim is to transform food production in the UK by encouraging rural growth and creating high-skilled jobs and new export opportunities.

Projects sought

There is £20 million to be shared across two types of project and a project should focus on one of two themes:

Project TypeProductivity solutions, which develop a single intervention within a supply chain or production system.Supply chain solutions, which develop multiple interventions across at least three parts of the supply chain, for example:

  • Beef producers, beef processors and supermarket retailers
  • Plant breeders, arable producers and food manufacturers
Maximum Project costs£2m£5m
  • Drive productivity and improve environmental outcomes in crop and ruminant production systems
  • Develop new, highly efficient, high-value production systems that maximise productivity and improve environmental performance
Themes could include
  • Combining digital technologies and engineering solutions with biological, environment or social science to improve productivity
  • Developing technologies and systems that connect farms and supply chains
  • Transferring an innovative technology from another sector into agriculture
Start and end DatesProjects must start by 1 April 2019, end by 31 March 2022 and can last up to 36 months.

Projects must also:

  • Have a clear route to market
  • Develop an optimised prototype that can be demonstrated within the production system or supply chain

This competition will not fund projects that cover:

  • Monogastric livestock and aquaculture projects (planned to cover in later competitions)
  • Forestry
  • Non-food crops
  • Wild capture fisheries
  • Amenity or ornamental horticulture
  • Equine


This competition will fund industrial research projects at the following percentages of eligible project costs:

  • Up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • Up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • Up to 50% if you are a large business

To lead a project you must:

  • Be a UK based SME if your project costs are under £100,000
  • Be a UK based business of any size if your project costs are over £100,000
  • Involve at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)

More details

More details on the competition, including the application process can be found at link.  As a reminder, Industrial research defined as “…planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. This should be for the purpose of product development, processes or services that lead to an improvement in existing products, processes or services. It can include the creation of component parts to complex systems and may include prototypes in a laboratory or environment with simulated interfaces to existing systems, particularly for generic technology validation.”

In Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, we will be liaising with our contacts at Agri-tech Cornwall to see how this funding competition interacts with their funding and business support.

FEATURING: Brian Harvey
As head of PKF Francis Clark’s agricultural sector group, Brian manages a dedicated team of agricultural accountants and tax advisers. He hails from a Cornish… read more
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