Funding competition Farming Innovation Programme: Research Starter round 4 - 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

Description

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

This funding is part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme which is a partnership with UKRI’s Transforming Food Production Challenge and delivered by Innovate UK.

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 2 stage competition. No funding will be awarded at this stage. If your application is successful, you will be invited to apply to a full stage competition.

This 2 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 March 2024.

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 in this Innovate UK competition brief. We cannot guarantee other government or third party sites will always show the correct competition information.

Funding type

Grant

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.

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 making reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us.

You can contact us at any time to ask for guidance. We recommend you contact us at least 15 working days before this competition’s closing date to allow us to put the most suitable support in place. The support we can provide may be limited if you contact us close to the competition deadline.

You can contact Innovate UK by email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12 pm and 2pm to 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Who can apply

Your project

If you are invited to the full stage competition, 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.

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

Your full stage project must:

  • have total costs between £28,000 and £56,000
  • start by 1 October 2024
  • end by 31 March 2026
  • last between 6 and 18 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 full stage 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 commercial 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 14 February 2024

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

The aim of this funding is to enable a commercial farming, growing or forestry businesses to investigate their own idea. It is not intended to fund the development or testing of an existing product or idea by an external company on a farm or forestry application.

The lead applicant must be a farmer, grower or forester running a commercial agricultural or forestry business. Examples of organisations that would not be eligible as the lead applicant include research and technical organisations, manufacturers and suppliers of products, equipment or services, trade and membership organisations, not for profit organisations.

Project team

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

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

Subcontractors

Subcontractors will be allowed in 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.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

Applicants must ensure that all of the proposed work within projects, both that in the UK and internationally, will comply with the UKRI guidance on the use of animals in research and innovation.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations and compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

Previous applications

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

You can make a maximum of 2 submissions to Innovate UK with any given proposal. If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be counted towards this maximum.

If your application goes through to assessment and is unsuccessful, you can reapply with the same proposal once more.

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 (legislation.gov.uk).

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.

Funding

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

Funding for the full stage competition 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.

The balance of the non-funded project costs must be funded by the project partners.

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 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 expression of interest (EoI) competition will provide you with the knowledge and information needed to aid you 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 optimise 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

12 December 2023
Online briefing event: watch the recording
18 December 2023
Competition opens
14 February 2024 12:00pm
Competition closes
20 March 2024
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 two 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.

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 support@iuk.ukri.org or calling 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm 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

Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

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.

Your answer can be up to 100 words long.

Scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. 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 all your answers apart from questions 1 to 3. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess and how we select applications for funding.

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. Animal Testing (not scored)

Will your project involve any trials with animals or animal testing?

You must select one option:

  • Yes
  • No

We will only support innovation projects conducted to the highest standards of animal welfare.

Further information for proposals involving animal testing is available at the UKRI Good Research Hub and NC3R’s animal welfare guidance.

Question 3. 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 in
  • what you grow or produce
  • who you sell your produce to

We will use these answers to confirm that you are eligible to apply as the Project Lead. We need to understand that you are a commercial farming, growing or forestry businesses deriving income from these agricultural sectors.

Question 4. What do you want to achieve from this funding?

Explain:

  • 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 5. What is your ‘big idea’ for a solution or new opportunity?

Explain:

  • 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 6. Where did your idea come from?

Explain:

  • 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 7. 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?

Describe:

  • 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 in partnership with UKRI’s Transforming Food Production (TFP) Challenge and delivered by Innovate UK.

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, Environmental Improvement 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.

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

Defra’s Privacy Policy

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, and is committed to upholding data protection legislation, and protecting your information in accordance with data protection principles.

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 expression of interest (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.

Assessment

Your application will be reviewed by up to 5 independent assessors based on the content of your application and their skills or expertise relevant to your project. All of the scores awarded will count towards the total score used to make the funding decision unless you are notified otherwise.

You can find out more about our assessment process in the General Guidance.

Your submitted application will be assessed against these criteria.

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 stage application. The full stage will open in March 2024.

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 funding 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 support@iuk.ukri.org or call 0300 321 4357.
Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Need help with this service? Contact us