Funding competition Productive and sustainable crop and ruminant agricultural systems

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £20 million to improve productivity and sustainability across UK crop and ruminant production systems.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


UK Research and Innovation, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will invest up to £20 million in innovation projects. These must improve productivity and sustainability by developing enhanced decisions support, precision agriculture technology solutions and systems for crop and ruminant agriculture.
Projects can include:
  • combining digital technologies and engineering solutions with biological, environmental and/or social science
  • developing technologies and solutions that connect farms and supply chains
  • transferring technology from another sector into agriculture, providing this requires innovation
We will fund 2 types of projects:
  • productivity solutions to a single challenge
  • supply chain solutions involving multiple interventions
Projects must be business-led.
Projects with total costs of:
  • under £100,000 can be single or collaborative but must be led by an SME
  • £100,000 or more must be collaborative and involve an SME
If your project’s total costs or duration fall outside our eligibility criteria, contact us at least 10 days beforethe competition closes.

Funding type


Project size

For productivity solutions total project costs can be up to £2 million. For supply chain solutions they can be up to £5 million. Projects must start by 1 April 2019, end by 31 March 2022 and can last up to 36 months.

Who can apply

To be eligible for funding you must:
  • be a UK based business, academic organisation, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • exploit the results of your project anywhere in the world.
Collaborations must include at least one SME.
Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.
Single applicants must claim funding. If the project is collaborative, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding.
All the research organisations on your project combined cannot claim more than 30% of total eligible project costs. This is in any capacity, whether they are contributing as collaborators or subcontractors. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.
To lead a project you must:
  • be a UK based SME if your project costs are under £100,000
  • be a UK based business of any size if your project costs are over £100,000
  • involve at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
Any one business may lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications. If a business is not leading an application, they can be a collaborator in up to 3 applications.
An academic institution or RTO cannot lead on an application but can be a collaborator in any number of applications.
Projects may include partners that do not receive any funding (for example, non-UK businesses). Their costs will count towards the total project costs but they will not count as collaborators.
If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision. We will:
  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members
  • communicate our decision to you in writing
Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information please see our general guidance.


If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be classed as a resubmission.
If your application is unsuccessful, you may reapply with the same proposal once more, taking into account the feedback received from the assessors. You can reapply into another round of this competition or another competition. In other words, you can make a maximum of 2 applications in total with any proposal.


UK Research and Innovation has allocated up to £20 million to fund innovation projects in this competition. The aim is to allocate :
  • £10 million to productivity solutions
  • £10 million to supply chain solutions
In this competition we will fund industrial research projects. You can claim funding for your eligible project costs of:
  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business
This competition provides state aid funding under the General Block Exemption Regulation. It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

This aim of this competition is to drive productivity and sustainability in crop and ruminant production systems.
Your project must fall into one of the following themes:
  • driving productivity and improved environmental outcomes in crop and ruminant production systems
  • developing new, highly efficient, high-value production systems that maximise productivity and improve environmental performance.
It must focus on the development of enhanced decision support, precision agriculture technology solutions and systems. This includes:
  • combining digital technologies and engineering solutions with biological, environmental and/or social science to drive productivity
  • developing technologies and solutions that connect farms and supply chains
  • transferring technology from another sector into agriculture, providing this requires innovation
Projects must support the overall Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s ‘transforming food production’ goals. These are to:
  • boost the efficiency and productivity of UK agricultural systems
  • embed sustainable food production with improved environmental impacts, including enhancing biodiversity, soil and air quality, and reducing emissions, pollution and waste
  • create growth and increase exports of agricultural technologies
Your project must also:
  • have a clear route to market for technologies and solutions
  • develop an optimised prototype that can be demonstrated within the production system or supply chain by the end of the project
We are particularly encouraging applications that:
  • bring new businesses and technologies into the UK precision agriculture sector
  • include farmer or grower involvement and/or endorsement
We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets and technological maturities.

Project types

Productivity solutions
Your project must develop a single intervention within a supply chain or production system.
Supply chain solutions
Your project must develop multiple interventions across multiple segments of the supply chain. You must take a systems approach and include at least 3 parts of the supply chain, for example:
  • beef producers, beef processor and supermarket retailer or
  • plant breeder, arable producers and food manufacturer

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that cover:
  • monogastric livestock and aquaculture projects, which we plan to cover in later competitions
  • forestry
  • non-food crops
  • wild capture fisheries
  • amenity or ornamental horticulture
  • equine
20 August 2018
Competition opens
29 August 2018
Birmingham briefing event.
24 October 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
21 December 2018 2:45pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.
When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.
As the lead applicant you will be responsible for:
  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful
You will be able to invite:
  • colleagues to contribute to the application
  • other organisations to collaborate in the project if your application is successful
Collaborating organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:
  1. Application details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Application details

Explain your project. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it does not, it will be immediately rejected.
Application details
The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.
Project summary
Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application. Your answer can be up to 400 words long. List any organisations you have named as collaborators.
Public description
Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.
Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will give you feedback on why. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

Your answers to these questions will be scored by the assessors. You will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.
Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.
Question 1: Need or challenge
What is the business need, citizen challenge, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?
Describe or explain:
  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project is focused on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations. Our Horizons tool can help with this.
Question 2: Approach and innovation
What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?
Describe or explain:
  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example, report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified
You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 10MB and up to 2 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 3: Team and resources
Who is in the project team and what are their roles?
Describe or explain:
  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • (if your project is collaborative) the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any gaps in the team that will need to be filled
You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 10MB and up to 4 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 4: Market awareness
What does the market you are targeting look like?
Describe or explain:
  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed
If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:
  • what the market’s size might to be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential
Question 5: Outcomes and route to market
How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?
Describe or explain:
  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example, why would they use or buy it?
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation (increased revenues or cost reduction)
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project
If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:
  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities
Question 6: Wider impacts
What impact might this project have outside the project team?
Describe, and where possible measure:
  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project
Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:
  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity
Question 7: Project management
Describe or explain:
  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the relevant research category, the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms that will be used for a successful and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones
You can upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 8: Risks
What are the main risks for this project?
Describe or explain:
  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • how these risks will be mitigated
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this
You can upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 9: Added value
Describe the impact that an injection of public funding would have on this project.
Describe or explain:
  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as faster to market, more partners and reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the businesses of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend
Question 10: Costs and value for money
How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?
Describe or explain:
  • the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer and how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project
Question 11: Project types (5 words)
Please enter the type of project you plan to undertake.
Please enter either “Productivity solutions” or “Supply chain solutions” as your answer.

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation in your project to complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academics will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Extra help
If you want help to find a project collaborator, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.
If you need more information, call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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