£14 million in funding to be made available for innovation projects

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£14 million in funding will be released by Defra through two new research and feasibility competitions under the Farming Innovation Programme.

The funding, open to farmers, growers, foresters, research organisations and businesses involved in agriculture, is intended to support collaborations to develop innovation and solutions in the farming sector.

Farming minister, Mark Spencer, said: “These competitions are all about encouraging collaborations between farmers and growers on the one hand, and research organisations and industry on the other, to help bring ideas from the planning stage into practice.

“The success of the previous competition rounds and the broad scope of ideas coming forward showcase the range of possibilities available for driving up productivity and solving some of the industry’s biggest challenges. I encourage everyone to take a look at what’s on offer in the latest competitions and apply.”

Previous rounds saw investments made in automations improving soft fruit yield, a ‘herd’ of lightweight, battery-operated, asparagus-harvesting robots; and the use of ultraviolet as a disinfectant in the dairy and poultry sectors.

Guidance for the third round of the Small R&D Partnerships competition will be published today. Worth almost £10 million, the competition has been developed in partnership with the Transforming Food Production Challenge and is delivered by Innovate UK. It comes alongside new guidance for a £4.5 million Feasibility Studies competition which aims to support businesses and researchers through the difficult testing phase of an idea, checking whether it works in practice and helping them assess whether to invest in a project. It looks for early-stage solutions that have the potential to substantially improve the overall productivity, sustainability and resilience of farming, and move existing agricultural sectors to net zero.

Dr Katrina Hayter, executive director for the Healthy Living and Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK, said: “We look forward to supporting the next round of applicants and identifying promising partnerships that hold the potential to address the sustainability, efficiency, and net zero challenges confronting the UK’s agrifood industry.

“Feasibility studies mark the initial stage in researching an idea that could improve farming, while small R&D partnerships are a vital step to empowering businesses to forge novel farming products and services, paving the way towards successful commercialisation.

“By fostering collaborations between farmers, growers, agri-businesses and researchers, these partnerships become the driving force behind transforming innovative solutions into practical applications.”

Since opening in October 2021, 16 competitions have launched under the government’s £270 million Farming Innovation Programme and, as of August 2023, more than £123 million in funding to industry-led research and development in agriculture and horticulture has been announced.

Applications for the Small R&D Partnerships competition open on 14 August and the Feasibility Studies competition window is open from 18 September.

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