Funding competition Farming Innovation Programme: Research Starter Round 3. EoI

Farming, growing or forestry businesses based in England can apply for a share of up to £850,000 for feasibility projects to improve productivity, sustainability, resilience and move the agricultural sector to net zero. 

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) will invest up to £850,000 in innovation projects.

This funding is part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme which is delivered in partnership with UKRI’s Transforming Food Production Challenge.

The aim of this competition is to:

  • investigate early-stage solutions with the potential to substantially improve overall productivity, sustainability, resilience and move existing agricultural sectors to net zero
  • prioritise solutions that have positive outputs for farmers, growers or foresters in commercially relevant situations
  • accelerate development of effective new agricultural solutions by working with end-users and collaborating with the wider UK research community in the innovation process 

This is an expression of interest (EoI) stage of a two stage competition. If your application is successful you will be invited to apply to a full stage competition.

This two stage competition is designed to make funding accessible to a wider range of applicants. If you are successful in the EoI stage, you will be able to access independent support to help complete the full stage application for grant funding. The full stage will open in May 2023.

Your proposal must be able to demonstrate how your project will benefit farmers, growers or foresters in England.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Detailed project costs are not required at this EoI stage. At the full application stage your project’s total costs must be between £28,000 and £56,000.

Who can apply

If you are successful at full stage, any awards given to primary agricultural producers are subject to the green box exemption under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Please see further guidance on green box subsidies here WTO Guidance for support in Agriculture. Applicants receiving this type of support must ensure that there is minimal to no distortion of trade and comply with the requirements of Annex 2 of the Agriculture Agreement.

Your project

If your application is successful at this EoI stage, you will be invited to apply for a full stage competition. In the full stage you must collaborate with other eligible partners.

Your full stage project must:

  • have total costs between £28,000 and £56,000
  • start by 1 November 2023
  • end by 31 October 2024
  • last between 6 and 12 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in England

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be an active farming, growing or forestry business of any size based in England
  • be able to evidence that you are an established business, including sole traders and partnerships
  • have a UK bank account
  • not have been awarded Innovate UK funding as a project lead within the last 5 years before 8 March 2023

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead at the full stage, an organisation must be a farmer, grower or forester based in the UK or a UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)


Subcontractors will be allowed at the full stage of this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

A farming, growing or forestry business can only lead on one EoI application.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

At the full application stage we will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the Subsidy Control Act 2022. Further information about the Subsidy requirements can be found within the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the Subsidy Control Act 2022 or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must always make sure that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.

This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to, or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.


The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has allocated up to £850,000 to fund innovation projects in this competition. Defra will be working in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Transforming Food Production Challenge to deliver this competition.

Funding for the full stage will be in the form of a grant.

A minimum of 50% of the total grant amount requested by farmers, growers and foresters in the full stage application, must come from farmers or growers geographically based in England.

At the full application stage, if your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For feasibility studies you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the full stage project can share up to 60% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Of that 60% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to:

  • investigate early-stage solutions with the potential to substantially improve overall productivity, sustainability, resilience and move existing agricultural sectors to net zero 
  • prioritise solutions that have positive outputs for farmers, growers or foresters in commercially relevant situations
  • accelerate development of effective new agricultural solutions by working with end-users and collaborating with the wider UK research community in the innovation process 

This competition provides an entry point​ for farmers, growers or foresters that have bold, ambitious, early-stage ideas to solve major problems that impact their business. This can help you exploit new significant opportunities for both your business and the industry sub-sector.​

The outputs of this EoI competition will provide you with the knowledge and information needed to aid in applying for grant funding for the development of your idea.

Your proposed feasibility study must investigate new solutions to industry identified challenges, or opportunities for farmers, growers or foresters that have the potential to significantly improve:

  • productivity
  • sustainability and environmental impact
  • progression towards net zero emissions
  • resilience

Your project must focus on developing on-farm or immediate post farmgate​ solutions.

You must be able to demonstrate how the project will benefit farmers, growers or forestry in England.

Portfolio approach
We want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, markets, technological maturities and agricultural sectors. We call this a portfolio approach. The portfolio approach is used to fit the spend profile of the competition and make sure that funds are allocated across the strategic areas identified in the scope.

Specific themes

Your project must address a significant industry challenge or opportunity in at least one of the four industry subsectors:

  • livestock
  • plants
  • novel food production systems
  • bioeconomy and agroforestry

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • are equine specific​
  • involve wild caught fisheries
  • are cellular or acellular production systems, fermentation systems for bacteria, yeast or fungi​
  • are for the production of crops or plants for medicinal or pharmaceutical use
  • are aquaculture, including algae and seaweed for human consumption
  • do not benefit farmers, growers or foresters in England

We cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

30 January 2023
Competition opens
1 February 2023
Online briefing event: watch the recording
8 March 2023 11:00am
Competition closes
27 April 2023 11:14am
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

Before submitting, it is the lead applicant’s responsibility to make sure:

  • that all the information provided in the application is correct
  • your proposal meets the eligibility and scope criteria
  • all sections of the application are marked as complete

You can reopen your application once submitted, up until the competition deadline. You must resubmit the application before the competition deadline.

What we ask you

The application is split into 2 sections:

1. Project details.

2. Application questions.

Accessibility and inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. This includes providing support, in the form of reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us. Read more on how we are making our application process more accessible and inclusive for everyone.

You must contact us as early as possible in the application process. We recommend contacting us at least 15 working days before the competition closing date to ensure we can provide you with the most suitable support possible.

You can contact us by emailing or calling 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

1. Project details

This section provides background for your application and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which people from your organisation will work with you on the project and invite those people to help complete the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section.

You will need to give your project a title and a start date. Projects must start by 1 November 2023 and must end by 31 October 2024.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, what is the problem or opportunity you want to address and which part of agriculture or horticulture does it apply to, for example, dairy, soft fruit or arable. We use this section to check your eligibility under the scope of the competition and assign experts to assess your application.

If your project is not in scope it will not be sent for assessment. We will tell you the reason why. Your answer can be up to 100 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers for questions 3 to 6. Questions 1 and 2 are not scored. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess.

You must answer all questions. Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Location of the farmer, grower or forester who is the project lead for this application (not scored)

You must state the name of your farming, growing or forestry business along with your full registered address and County Parish Holding (CPH) number (where relevant).

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all participants of a project.

Question 2. Tell us about you and your business (not scored)

Tell us about you and your business.

You must include:

  • your name and role in the business
  • the trading names of your farming, growing or forestry businesses if different from your registered name
  • which county your main farming, growing or forestry activity is based
  • what you grow or produce
  • who you sell your produce to

Question 3. What do you want to achieve from this funding?


  • the problem that you are trying to address or the new opportunity for your business
  • why this matters to your business
  • how this problem also affects other farming, growing or forestry businesses or how they could also benefit from this new solution or opportunity

Question 4. What is your ‘big idea’ for a solution or new opportunity?


  • what your proposed idea or solution is
  • why is this problem not already solved, or the opportunity not taken
  • what are the difficulties that funding and research collaboration will help you overcome
  • why is this idea better than, or different from, what already exists

Question 5. Where did your idea come from?


  • what you have observed or learnt
  • how you have investigated the problem or opportunity
  • what work you already have completed to develop your solution from conception to now

Question 6. If your solution is successful, what improvements will it offer?

What improvements will your solution offer you and other farmers, growers or foresters like you?

Explain how your idea will impact:

  • productivity and efficiency
  • sustainability and environmental impact
  • progression towards net zero emissions

How many farmers, growers or foresters could adopt and benefit from your solution?


  • the applicable farming or forestry business sectors
  • the ease of integration or adoption of the solution into existing systems

Background and further information

This funding is from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Farming Innovation Programme, and is being delivered in partnership with UKRI’s Transforming Food Production (TFP) Challenge.

The Farming Innovation Programme will fund ambitious research and development projects to overcome barriers and create a more productive and sustainable sector.

Projects will benefit England’s farmers, growers, foresters and other businesses to conduct R&D to help boost productivity, enhance sustainable practices, support economic growth, improve environmental outcomes and reduce carbon emissions in England’s agricultural and horticultural sectors.

The programme provides a key means to deliver against the government’s goals. The goals are set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan, 25 Year Environment Plan, Government’s Food Strategy and Net Zero targets. Its aims are to develop a renewed agricultural sector, producing healthy food for consumption at home and abroad, where farms can be profitable and economically sustainable without subsidy. This gives farming the opportunity to contribute significantly to environmental goals, including addressing climate change.

The Farming Innovation Programme is made up of three funds. Two of these, the Industry-led R&D Partnerships Fund, and Farming Futures R&D Fund, are being delivered in partnership with UKRI. This competition is part of the Industry-led R&D Fund.

The aim of this funding support is to:

  • investigate early-stage solutions that have the potential to substantially improve the overall productivity and sustainability of farming, and move existing agricultural sectors to net zero
  • prioritise solutions that will have positive outputs for farmers, growers and foresters in commercially relevant situations
  • accelerate research and development of new agricultural solutions by actively engaging collaboration with the wider UK research community in the innovation process
  • create opportunities for government and the farming industry to work together to make farming greener and more productive
  • help grow the economy, create jobs and improve food security

Defra’s partnership with UKRI

Defra and UKRI have developed a strong partnership for agrifood and agriculture innovation. This is built upon the success of UKRI’s Transforming Food Production (TFP) Challenge, the recent Farming Innovation Pathways competition, and our shared ambition for a more productive, sustainable, and low carbon agrifood sector. We are taking this partnership to the next level with Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme.

Defra and UKRI are looking to fund bold ideas and encourage collaboration between businesses, researchers, farmers, growers or foresters, to deliver solutions for a more productive, environmentally sustainable and resilient sector.

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) (each an ‘agency’).

Any relevant information submitted and produced during the application process concerning your application can be shared by one agency with the other, for its individual storage, processing and use.

This means that any information given to or generated by Innovate UK in respect of your application may be passed on to Defra and vice versa. This would include, but is not restricted to:

  • the information stated on the application, including the personal details of all applicants
  • scoring and feedback on the application
  • information received during the management and administration of the grant, such as Monitoring Officer reports and Independent Accountant Reports

Innovate UK and Defra are directly accountable to you for their holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with their own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK, and Defra will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application. Innovate UK’s Privacy Policy is accessible here.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of GDPR, and is committed to upholding the data protection principles, and protecting your information. The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Find a project partner

If you want help to find potential partners that could collaborate with you in your full stage project, contact the Innovate UK KTN Agri-Food Team

If your EoI applications is successful, you will be offered independent support by the KTN Agri-Food team to identify partners and to help complete your full stage application.

Next steps

If you are successful with this application, you will be invited to apply for the full stage of this competition to request funding support.

You will be able to access independent support to help complete the full application stage. The full stage will open in May 2023.

If your application is unsuccessful

If you are unsuccessful with your application this time, you can view feedback from the assessors. This will be available to you on your IFS portal following notification.

Sometimes your application will have scored well, and you will receive positive comments from the assessors. You may be unsuccessful as your average score was not above the threshold or your project has not been selected under the portfolio approach if this is applied for this competition.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email or call 0300 321 4357.
Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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