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Funding competition Newton UK-China agritech challenge 2017

UK organisations can apply for a share of up to £8 million to work with Chinese partners on innovative agricultural solutions in China.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Summary

Description

Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are investing up to £8 million (£4 million each) in projects that use cutting-edge technologies to solve agricultural challenges in China.

The aim of this competition is to encourage innovative partnerships between the UK and China. Innovate UK, BBSRC and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) are funding this competition as part of the Newton Fund.

Projects should address challenges related to agricultural technologies in one or more of these 3 sectors:

  1. Precision agriculture, agriculture digitisation and decision management tools.
  2. Improving the efficiency of sustainable agricultural production
  3. Agricultural products processing

We expect projects to range in size from total projects costs of £1 million to £2 million. The total project grant must not exceed £1 million per project in the UK. Projects should last up to 3 years.

For a project to be eligible for this competition, it will need to include one UK business and one UK higher education institute or research council institute eligible for BBSRC funding. You will also need to partner with one Chinese business and one academic institution. Either a business or a research organisation can lead the project in the UK.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Total UK project costs of £1 million to £2 million, with grant size not exceeding £1 million in the UK.

Deadline

The deadline for this competition has been extended. You must now register before midday on 13 September 2017. You must apply before midday on 20 September 2017.

Eligibility

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To apply to this competition, your project must contain at least:

  • one UK-based business of any size
  • one UK higher education institute or research council institute eligible for BBSRC funding
  • one Chinese business
  • one Chinese academic institution

Additional UK and Chinese businesses, research and academic partners are allowed.

You can carry out the project entirely in China, or in China and the UK, but not solely in the UK.

Either a business or a research organisation (including but not limited to UK higher education institutions or research council institutes) can lead the project in the UK. Chinese businesses, academic institutions or research organisations can lead the project in China.

Projects that we won't fund

We will not fund projects that seek only to further research objectives. Projects must focus on translating research and/or knowledge, and must show a clear route to commercialisation.

Also out of scope are projects that:

  • do not meet offical development assistance (ODA) eligibility requirements
  • do not target one of the 3 sectors in China
  • have negative environmental and social impacts
  • are not in line with Innovate UK and BBSRC guidelines around the use of animals in research for activities in both China and the UK

Funding and project details

This competition is part of the UK–China Newton Fund.

In the UK, Innovate UK and BBSRC have allocated up to £8 million (£4 million each) to fund projects in this competition. China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) has allocated up to CNY 60 million to fund projects. Innovate UK and BBSRC will fund the UK project partners and MoST will fund the Chinese project partners.

Project costs

There are limits to the proportion of total project costs that members of the consortia can claim for. For more information, please refer to the guidance for applicants.

Project types

Projects must focus on industrial research. We will consider projects that predominantly target industrial research but have work packages with elements of experimental development. Work packages that are primarily experimental development will receive the appropriate grant percentage.

For industrial research, you could get:

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are a small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business
  • up to 80% of full economic costs if you are a higher education institute or research council institute
  • up to 100% of eligible costs if you are another type of research organisation undertaking non-economic activity

For experimental development work packages, you could get:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are a small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business
  • up to 80% of full economic costs if you are a higher education institute/research council institute
  • up to 100% of eligible costs if you are another type of research organisation undertaking non-economic activity

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Read the full details of the funding rules for universities and other research organisations.

We expect projects to last up to 3 years. We expect projects to range in size from total project costs of £1 million to £2 million. But, the total project grant must not exceed £1 million per project in the UK. Information on funding for project partners from China is to be obtained directly from the MoST website.

Scope

The competition scope

The aim of this competition is to encourage innovative partnerships between the UK and China. A project should bring together a consortium of eligible UK and Chinese partners to put forward agri-tech solutions. These solutions should respond to China’s health, safety, productivity and environmental needs in the agricultural field. Consortia should also show how they aim to create sustainable links between the UK and Chinese partners.

We are looking to fund collaborative solutions to China’s agricultural challenges in one or more of the following areas:

  1. Precision agriculture, agriculture digitisation and decision management tools.
  2. Improving the efficiency of sustainable agricultural production.
  3. Agricultural products processing.

Challenge 1: precision agriculture, agriculture digitisation and decision management tools

The application of precision engineering and technological solutions, with world-leading bioscience research, has the potential to revolutionise farming. This could help to tackle the global challenge of food security. Technological advances in the use of data to inform decision-making and develop predictive tools also offer the opportunity for new approaches to agriculture.

Examples of research and translation under this challenge may include, but are not limited to:

  • integrating data acquisition technologies (such as the Internet of Things, drones and remote sensing), to develop data service platforms for agricultural producers and increase value derived from farm produce supply chains. Of particular interest is the collection, integration and analysis of data relating to: on-farm production materials and process; post-harvest processing; operation and management along the supply chain; and product prices, imports and exports in the agri-food supply chain
  • development and application of novel technical systems for remote sensing, monitoring and prediction of livestock and crop disease/pest outbreaks. This would inform risk-forecasting and decision-making tools and service products for use nationally and locally in precision production and farm management. Technologies might include: novel approaches to integrating and using earth observation, environmental information, biopesticides or other management techniques
  • intelligent equipment and digitally-managed facilities for aquaculture and aquaponics to support improved resource use, waste management, safety and efficiency. This might include: environmental monitoring for remote growth, movement and feeding behaviour; signal acquisition of nutrient demand and intelligent feeding; precise nutrient analysis technology; and fine coupling and automatic control technology of fish-plant-nutrient-environment parameters and efficient circulating water culture
  • development of innovative livestock housing that promotes animal welfare and productivity. This might include: understanding the best environmental conditions; technology to improve resource efficiency; and development of real-time monitoring equipment, sewage treatment equipment and other key environmental automatic control equipment

Challenge 2: improving the efficiency of sustainable agricultural production

Many animal and plant pests and pathogens affect Chinese agricultural systems. These have negative impacts on society, the environment and the economy. There is a need for innovative, integrated approaches to the control of pests and diseases. This will support the increasing need to intensify agricultural production while reducing inputs. There is also a need for new knowledge, tools and technologies to help to predict and control emerging threats to agricultural production.

Pests and diseases in crops and farmed animals have developed resistance to drugs and chemical protection products. This is driving the need for new products and approaches to pest and pathogen management. There is also a need to improve the efficiency of agricultural production, by breeding crops and animals with important agronomic traits. Also required is the optimisation of farming practices to improve sustainability.

Examples of research and translation under this challenge may include, but are not limited to:

  • understanding crop responses to environmental variables, soil quality, fertiliser, biocontrol and pesticides. This will support the development of integrated management approaches and breeding programmes to promote high productivity and quality (in particular protein quality) with low resource input and environmental impact. Nitrogen use efficiency is of particular interest
  • wheat improvement through breeding techniques. This includes: genome editing; high-throughput gene/allele mining; fine mapping and map-based cloning; generating germplasm resources through wild relative gene introgression or induced mutagenesis; and linking genotype to phenotype. Of particular interest are stress resistance, quality, yield, sustainability, and the hereditary basis of polyploidy
  • nutritional and energy requirements of farmed animals (such as dairy cows, yaks) at specific or different physiological stages, and the effects of diet on productivity, metabolic diseases, ruminant methane emissions, carcass quality and product quality, including meat and dairy
  • research to support high-value use of straw. This is through the development of biological processes to convert straw into high-value products, such as ?-valerolactone and vanillin. Also needed is improved understanding and modification of the cell wall structure to realise the high-value conversion of crop straw

Challenge 3: agricultural products processing

Improving the understanding of quality traits in plants and animals can help to improve nutrition for Chinese consumers. It can also increase the economic value of agricultural products. Other production innovations can improve the quality and safety of agricultural products, and benefit Chinese society and the economy. The increasing availability of data can also help to improve the traceability and quality assurance of produce.

Examples of research and translation under this challenge may include, but are not limited to:

  • improved understanding of the protein composition of agricultural produce in order to optimise human health benefits. This might cover: the digestive process of significant proteins; the bio-availability of digestion products and the way in which they impact on human health; developing methods for deep processing of food components and their hydrolysates (such as functional peptides); and studying process-related composition changes
  • evaluating the nutritional quality of agricultural products to understand how the nutritional quality changes through physical, chemical and biological processing, and how to maximise nutritional content of the end product
  • supporting waste reduction and food safety. This might include: recovery, refinement and re-use of food ingredients and food processing by-products for added nutritional value; and extending the shelf-life and safety of food products
  • supporting development of an internationally compatible toolkit of tests to prevent food fraud, prove authenticity and improve product safety. Examples of components of a toolkit might include (but are not limited to): a database of molecular and atomic level fingerprinting techniques; new technologies to record, trace and analyse provenance; support systems to reduce the risk of hazards, bio-contaminants and pollutants entering the food chain; rapid detection technology of organic pollutants and endogenous harmful substances in agricultural products

All proposals must also:

Dates

5 June 2017
Competition opens
16 June 2017
Watch the applicant briefing event webinar.
13 September 2017
Registration deadline.
13 September 2017 12:00pm
Registration closes
20 September 2017 12:00pm
Competition closes
24 November 2017
Applicants notified

How to apply

How to apply

To apply:

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

A panel of independent experts from the UK and China will assess your application. We will choose the best applications from those that meet the aims of this competition. We will then select the projects that we fund, to build a portfolio of projects as described in the guidance for applicants. Please read this carefully before you apply.

Also please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a high-quality application.

Supporting information

Background and further information

Innovate UK helps translate the UK’s innovation expertise into business solutions in emerging economies. We enable collaborative solutions to overseas socio-economic challenges. We do this by supporting companies and research organisations from the UK to establish global partnerships and exchange knowledge with organisations in some of the most dynamic markets in the world. The size, diversity and potential of China’s markets present significant opportunities for innovative UK businesses and research organisations.

For this reason, Innovate UK, BBSRC and China’s MoST are jointly funding this competition. We are running it as part of the UK–China Newton Fund. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy leads the Newton Fund in the UK.

About the Newton Fund

The Newton Fund was established in 2014 and will operate to at least 2021. The Newton Fund forms part of the UK government’s Official Development Assistance commitment. The Fund uses science and innovation partnerships to improve the economic development and social welfare of 16 partner countries, including China. There is a total of £735 million funding available from the UK government for the Fund’s duration. Partner countries contribute extra matched funding.

Further help and information

To find suitable domestic and overseas partners, please consider the following opportunities:

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at support@innovateuk.gov.uk

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