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UK: Funding opportunities for innovation in agriculture and horticulture

Defra is to launch a series of new funding opportunities for innovation in agriculture and horticulture beginning next month as part of its new industry-led R&D Partnerships Fund.

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 while helping achieve Net-Zero.

In October 2021, Defra will launch the first competition of its new Industry-led R&D Partnerships fund. This will be the first of three different funds to launch Defra's new Farming Innovation Program.

Through this fund, Defra aims to encourage groups of farmers, growers, businesses, and researchers to get involved in collaborative research and development. It is only by working together that they will be able to solve challenges and exploit opportunities for increasing productivity and environmental sustainability in England's agricultural and horticultural sectors.

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.

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.

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 a different scale of funding. Project teams will be able to apply for grants towards the total project costs while providing some of their own match funding. The first three opportunities are summarized below.

Research Starter Projects will cover projects lasting up to 12 months, with total project costs between £28k – £56k. This aims to help farmers and growers with bold, ambitious early-stage ideas to develop them further and build a collaborative team. It is designed for those who haven't previously received Innovate UK funding.
Feasibility Projects of up to two years' duration, with costs of between £200k – £500k. This fund aims to enable feasibility tests for early-stage solutions and inform decisions on subsequent larger-scale R&D projects.

Small R&D Partnership Projects for projects taking up to three years and with costs ranging from £1millon to £3million. Eligible projects will carry out R&D for innovative solutions that have the potential to substantially improve overall productivity, sustainability, and resilience of the sector.

Larger R&D projects
There will also be an opportunity to apply for funding for larger R&D projects in early 2022. The funds are available for farmers or growers in England, with ideas that will benefit the farming sector. Larger projects will be appropriate for a group of agri-businesses wanting to collaborate with other businesses, researchers, and end-users to develop and commercialize your innovative product. Companies from outside the sector with a game-changing idea for English farming can also apply.

The competitions will open to applicants in early October. Defra will provide more information in the early autumn, with briefing events, detailed guidance on eligibility requirements and how to apply, and support forming partnerships with other applicants.

Each competition will be open for 6-7 weeks, with different closing dates for each.

The application process will vary depending on the type of project: a simple application for the Research Starter Projects and Feasibility Projects and a more detailed application process for the R&D Partnership Projects. Independent expert assessors with relevant industry or academic expertise will review all applications.

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