Funding competition ISCF Future food production systems

Apply for a share of up to £20 million to transform food production systems, improve productivity and sustainability, and help the industry move towards net zero emissions by 2040. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

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Competition sections

Description

Up to £20 million of grant funding is available for projects that disrupt the traditional land-based models of food production.

Projects must create integrated, data-driven solutions to drive agricultural productivity as well as target net zero emissions. We will consider a broad range of technologies and systems.

Your project must aim to determine the transformation of future food production systems. It must be ambitious, multidisciplinary and systems-focused rather than dedicated to developing a single technology.

We are particularly looking to support large-scale, ambitious projects.

The competition closes at midday 12pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be greater than £1 million but less than £10 million.

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance.

Your project

Your project’s total eligible costs must be greater than £1 million but less than £10 million.

If your project is exceptional, we may consider projects with total eligible costs more than £10 million. You must email support@innovateuk.ukri.org to discuss your eligibility at least 6 weeks before the competition closing date.

All projects must be collaborative and involve a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME).

Projects must start by 1 July 2020 and end by 31 March 2023. They can last between 24 and 33 months.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

Research organisations cannot lead a project.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead organisation your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, academic institution, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be invited to take part by the lead applicant

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding and enter their costs as part of the application.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

Multiple applications

Any one business can lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications.

If a business is not leading an application, they can collaborate in up to 3 applications.

RTOs and academic institutions can collaborate on any number of applications

Previous applications

Resubmissions

You cannot use a resubmission to apply for this competition. A resubmission is an application Innovate UK judges as not materially different from one you've submitted before.

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation 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, and communicate it to you in writing

Previous projects

Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you are required to submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim. If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an IAR on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in this or any other competition until we have received the documents.

Funding

We have allocated up to £20 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • 50% if you are a large business

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 45% if you are a micro or small business
  • 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • 25% if you are a large business

The research organisations in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum is shared between them.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Collaborative R&D’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

The scope for this competition is broad. We are looking for large scale, ambitious, integrated and data-driven solutions that can help move UK food production towards a sustainable and productive, net-zero emissions future.

Projects funded under this competition must address one of the following:

  • the development of new, resource efficient, low emission food production systems
  • the technological and other bottlenecks that prevent existing state-of-the-art systems from supplying mainstream consumer markets

You must show how your project will:

  • significantly contribute to achieving net zero emissions across one or more food products
  • provide nutrient dense foods that are accessible to mainstream consumers
  • deliver other relevant benefits to society, such as reduced resource consumption, waste or improved animal welfare
  • apply a systems approach as opposed to working on a single technology

We are looking for multidisciplinary projects with diverse collaborations to deliver transformation across one or more industry subsectors.

Your proposal must demonstrate how the work and associated exploitation will meet the aims and objectives of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Transforming Food Production challenge.

The challenge

This competition’s funding comes from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). Projects must align with specific objectives 1 and 3 of the Transforming Food Production challenge.

The challenge's specific objectives are to:

  1. Create integrated data-driven solutions to drive primary agricultural productivity whilst driving towards net zero emissions
  2. Embed adoption of precision approaches to bridge the productivity gap, strengthening connections between researchers, businesses and practitioners
  3. Stimulate the establishment of novel high value production systems to position UK technologies at the forefront of new industries.
  4. Drive growth in UK precision technology companies, creating high value jobs and adding value in the UK agricultural value chain.
  5. Develop export opportunities and increase investment into UK research and innovation.

Through the regular monitoring and performance processes of UK Research and Innovation (through Innovate UK) we will review and evaluate whether your project fits the objectives and anticipated benefits. We will use exploitation of the grant as one of the main indicators of success

To achieve the challenge’s objectives we will fund a balanced portfolio of high scoring projects across a variety of technologies, markets, industry sectors and technological maturities.

To check whether your project is in scope, email support@innovateuk.ukri.org at least 10 days before the close of the competition.

Specific themes

Possible project areas could include, but are not limited to:

  • indoor growing systems
  • aquaculture, including deep water and algal culture
  • new food sources, including insects and fermentation based systems

Research categories

We will fund industrial research and experimental development projects. Make sure you understand the definitions we use for these research categories.

The majority of the work funded will be planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. Both are defined as industrial research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects involving:

  • equine
  • amenity horticulture
  • wild caught fisheries

17 September 2019
Competition opens
3 October 2019
London briefing event: watch the recordings (scroll down for links)
23 October 2019
Birmingham consortium building event: register
22 January 2020 12:00pm
Competition closes
28 February 2020
Invite to interview
16 March 2020
Interview panel
27 March 2020
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the general guidance for applicants before you start.

Interviews

If your written application is successful, you will be invited to attend an interview where you must give a presentation.

Before the interview, by the deadline stated in the invitation email, you:

  • must send a list of who will attend the interview
  • must send your interview presentation slides
  • can send a written response to the assessors’ feedback

List of attendees

Agree the list with your consortium. Ideally one person from each organisation should attend the interview, up to a maximum of 6 participants. They must all be available on all published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

Presentation slides

Your interview presentation must:

  • use Microsoft PowerPoint
  • be no longer than 15 minutes
  • have no more than 15 slides
  • not include any video or embedded web links

You cannot change the presentation after you submit it.

Written response to assessor feedback

This is optional and is an opportunity to answer the assessors’ concerns. It can:

  • be up to 4 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
  • include charts or diagrams

Interview

After your presentation the panel will spend up to 30 minutes asking questions. You will be expected to answer based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

1. Project details.

2. Application questions.

3. Finances.

1. Project details

This section sets the scene for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration. Is the application a resubmission?

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, be clear about what makes it innovative and its potential to be transformative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. 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.

Scope

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

The assessors will score your answers. You will receive feedback from them for each one.

Your answer to each question can be up to 500 words long. Do not include any website links in your answers.

Question 1. Transforming food production

How will your project improve productivity, increase sustainability and help the industry (or industry subsector) move towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation and commercial rationale for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • how the project output(s) will improve productivity, increase sustainability and help the industry (or industry subsector) move towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project focuses 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

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
  • 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

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. 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 key partners in the project, the relationships between partners and the rationale for working together
  • 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
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

You must submit one appendix to support your answer. It can contain a short summary of the main people working on the project. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 pages long. 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 (including market share indicators such as share of total producers / land area / national herd / production etc that form the primary market) 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 expected rate of adoption across the industry and any impact this might have on sector productivity
  • 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

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • the characteristics of the expected target market, for example business type, demographics, user attitudes
  • what the market’s size might to be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5. Competitors

Who else is operating in this space and how does your proposal build on and or differentiate from competitors?

Describe or explain:

  • the process you have completed to evaluate the work of competitors
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art (both UK and international) - including those near market or in development, and its limitations?
  • how your project will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • What you will do during the project to incorporate new developments and monitor competitors

Question 6. 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 they would use or buy your product
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including 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 7. Outputs and impacts

What will your project deliver and how it will meet the aims and objectives of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund; Transforming Food Production programme.

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe, and where possible measure:

  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example, know-how, new process, product or service design, prototype, demonstrator)
  • how these outputs will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified 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
  • the environmental benefits from the project to external parties such as contributing to net-zero targets for emissions and reduction of waste. This should include customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK overall.
  • what your project will deliver to meet the objectives of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund; Transforming Food Production programme and particularly objectives 1 and 3.

Question 8. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

Describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get 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 must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. 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 you will mitigate these risks
  • 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 must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 10. Added value

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses involved?

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 a faster route to market, more partners or 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 11. 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 eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how each partner will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • 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

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academic institutions 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 on the challenge

This competition’s funding comes from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

The transforming food production challenge’s overall aims are to:

  • help food production systems achieve net zero emissions by 2040
  • help produce food in ways that are more efficient, resilient and sustainable
  • speed up the development and use of integrated precision approaches to improve productivity in agricultural systems

Its specific objectives are to:

  1. Create integrated data-driven solutions to drive primary agricultural productivity whilst driving towards net zero emissions
  2. Embed adoption of precision approaches to bridge the productivity gap, strengthening connections between researchers, businesses and practitioners
  3. Stimulate the establishment of novel high value production systems to position UK technologies at the forefront of new industries.
  4. Drive growth in UK precision technology companies, creating high value jobs and adding value in the UK agricultural value chain.
  5. Develop export opportunities and increase investment into UK research and innovation.

Extra help

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

If you need more information, email us at support@innovateuk.ukri.org or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Information from the briefing event

We held a briefing event on 3 October 2019. To see the slides and recordings from the day, visit KTN and scroll to the bottom of the page.

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