Funding competition UK-Canada: enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability

UK businesses with Canadian business partners can apply for a share of up to £2 million, from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, for innovative projects that enhance productivity and sustainability of crop, livestock and aquaculture systems.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The close date of this competition was changed on 20 May 2020.

The UK and Canada are running a joint funding competition to support collaborative research and development (CR&D) projects, to develop new products, processes and services. Projects must target improvement to the productivity and sustainability of crop, livestock and aquaculture systems.

We want applicants to deliver integrated precision approaches and data driven solutions to support the transition to a net zero-emission industry by 2040.

We welcome proposals:

  • combining digital technologies, artificial intelligence, the application of big data 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

The national funding bodies (NFBs) will fund their respective participants in the projects. Contact your agency for further guidance:

The competition closes at 5pm UK time (which is 9am Pacific Time and midday 12pm Eastern Time) on 24th June 2020.

Funding type


Project size

The combined total funding sought (grant available) for all UK partners can be a maximum of £400,000 per application. NRC IRAP will provide a maximum contribution of up to $700,000 CAD to be shared between Canadian partners involved in the project.

UK-specific rules

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.

Multiple applications

UK businesses may participate in up to three applications but lead only one.

Canada-specific rules

Canadian applicants must register with NRC IRAP before 6 March 2020 to receive an EoI form.

Before being invited to join a project in Innovation Funding Service, all Canadian SME participants must have submitted a Canadian Expression of Interest (EoI) and have been invited to proceed to the full proposal stage of the competition by NRC IRAP.

Canadian funding applicants who do not complete an EoI and have not been invited to proceed will not be eligible for funding through this competition.

Please see the NRC IRAP call page for more information in English and French on Canadian eligibility requirements and in order to register.

Multiple applications

Canadian SMEs may only participate in one application either as a lead or partner (note UK organisation must be listed as lead on Innovation Funding Service and Canadian lead identified within the application in the “Project Details” section).

Shared rules

Your project

The majority of work undertaken by each partner should occur in their home country.

No one country and/or organisation can represent more than 75% of the total project cost.

Applications must demonstrate a clear intention to exploit the results of the project commercially.

Projects must start by 1 November 2020 and end by 31 March 2023. They can last between 24 and 29 months.

Project team

Your organisation cannot work alone. The project consortium must contain at least:

  • one UK registered business of any size and
  • one registered Canadian SME (500 or fewer employees)

Academic institutions or research and technology organisations (RTOs) may participate in the project but cannot be awarded funding through this competition. They may, however, act as a sub-contractor to a funded project partner.

The role of each project partner must be detailed in a collaboration/consortium agreement included as part of the project application.

At least one business from each country (UK and Canada) in a project must receive funding.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs and must be entered on the Innovation Funding Service application under question 11 if you are a Canadian organisation or as part of the finance section if you are a UK organisation.

Previous applications (UK only)


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

If you submit a new proposal this time you will be able to use it in no more than one future competition that allows resubmissions.

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation and were awarded funding by your National Funding Body, 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.


Selected collaborative R&D projects will be eligible to receive funding from their respective national funding body. Funds will be provided in accordance with the national laws, rules, regulations, and procedures established by each national funding body, and/or each jurisdiction and/or country and/or program.


There is up to £2 million allocated to fund UK business involvement in innovation projects in this competition. The combined total funding sought (grant available) for all UK partners can be a maximum of £400,000 per application and must provide a full cost breakdown in the Innovation Funding Service.

If your total funding sought is over £400,000 your project will be deemed ineligible and not be sent for assessment.

By adjusting your funding percentage in the finance section on the Innovation Funding Service you can change your funding sought amount, this may need to be carried out by each UK organisation within the consortium. Contact for further assistance.

Organisations that are primarily engaged in commercial or economic activity (known as selective advantage) as part of the project must ensure their request for funding does not exceed the limits defined below.

Industrial research projects, UK businesses could get funding for 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

Experimental development projects which are nearer to market, UK businesses could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

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

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Aid for research and development projects’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is the responsibility of the applicants to make sure that their organisation(s) are eligible to receive state aid.


NRC IRAP will provide a maximum contribution of up to $700,000 CAD to be shared between the Canadian partners involved in the project. Canadian SMEs may receive up to 50% reimbursement of eligible project costs.

Canadian SME applicants must be registered as NRC IRAP clients to be considered for funding through this competition. Please see the NRC IRAP call page for more information in English and French.

Your proposal

We want to support a portfolio of projects across the breadth of the agriculture sector, including projects that focus on crop, livestock and aquaculture production systems that:

  • combine digital technologies, artificial intelligence, the application of big data and engineering solutions with biological, environmental or social science to drive productivity
  • develop technologies and solutions that connect farms and supply chains
  • transfer technology from another sector into agriculture, providing this requires innovation

The role of UK and Canadian participants in supported projects must align with the UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s ‘transforming food production’ objectives to provide transformations in their respective countries:

  1. Create integrated data-driven solutions to drive primary agricultural productivity whilst transitioning towards net zero agriculture emissions by 2040.
  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 UK precision technology companies, creating high value jobs and adding value in the global agricultural value chain.
  5. Develop export opportunities and increase investment into UK research and innovation.

We encourage projects to:

  • bring new businesses and technologies into the UK and Canadian precision agriculture sector
  • include farmer or grower involvement or endorsement

Research categories

We will fund, industrial research and experimental development projects, as defined in the general guidance.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that focus on:

  • forestry
  • non-food crops
  • wild capture fisheries
  • amenity or ornamental horticulture
  • equine
  • integrating cannabis products into the food chain

27 January 2020
Competition opens
11 February 2020
Online briefing event: watch the recording
13 February 2020
Birmingham briefing event
21 February 2020
Online matchmaking event: register to attend
13 March 2020
Online matchmaking event: register to attend
24 June 2020 5:00pm
Competition closes
3 September 2020 9:56am
Applicants notified

Before you start

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

Canadian led applications should read the “Applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service” section of the general guidance for applicants.

Your application must include all of the following:

  • completed application via IFS
  • draft consortium/collaboration agreement (appendix to question 8)
  • 2-page project plan, including Gantt chart (appendix to question 9)
  • 2-page risk register (appendix to question 10)
  • 2-page key personnel summary (appendix to question 7)
  • project financial cost breakdown (appendix to question 11)

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 title

Provide a short title (less than 15 words) for your project that gives an indication of the topic of the project.

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.

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.


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 a reason why. Your answer can be up to 400 words long. For Canadian Applicants, please identify your IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor.

2. Application questions

Unscored questions

Question 1. Project information

Provide an acronym (less than 10 characters) for your project that we can use for identification.

Please specify the names of the following:

Overall Project Lead (100 characters)

UK Lead (100 characters)

Canadian Lead (100 characters)

Canadian applicants only

Please provide:

  • Canadian business number
  • address
  • website
  • how many full time equivalent (FTE) staff do you employ? (3 characters)
  • how many FTEs are involved in R&D? (3 characters)
  • what impact do you expect to see on employee growth within 3 years of the completion of this project?
  • what impact do you expect to see on revenue growth within 3 years of the completion of this project? (1000 characters)

Question 2. Project development activities

This question applies to both UK and Canadian applicants.

Please detail how the consortium formed including any of the below matchmaking events attended:

  • Collaboration Nation, London (March 2018)
  • GBAP Agri-Tech Mission to Canada (June 2018)
  • AI and Food Mission to UK (February 2019)
  • GBIP Agri-Tech Mission to Canada (January 2020)
  • Virtual 'Collaboration Café' sessions (March 2020)

Question 3. Equality, diversity and inclusion

As part of our joint commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), NRC IRAP and Innovate UK are exploring various ways to incorporate consideration of EDI into our support to high-growth companies. The following question is part of our data gathering in support of a practical approach to EDI in selecting future international collaborative projects. Please provide as complete an answer as you can. Your response will be reviewed, but it will not be scored as part of the project selection process for this call.

Do your organisations have policies on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), and what role does EDI play in your organisations’ culture?

Describe or explain:

  • your approved policy on EDI, if you have one
  • how you encourage and develop diversity in your workforce, suppliers and customers
  • any recognition you have received as an inclusive workplace, including third party audits, recognition or awards.
  • how you will consider EDI in the development of collaborative project results to maximise market impact and avoid exclusion of minority groups

Do not provide personal information on individuals or identifiable statistics on diversity within your organisation.

Scored questions

The assessors will score your answers to the following questions. You will receive feedback from them for each one.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long.

Question 4. 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, including the expected environmental impact
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected regional impacts of the project
  • 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 focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one

Question 5. 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
  • your 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 be
  • how your project will validate the market’s potential

Question 6. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take to market the opportunity 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
  • who your initial target customers or end users are, and the value to them from routine operational use of the proposed innovation

Question 7. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Describe or explain:

  • the core capabilities of each organisation in the consortium and its relevance to achieving the project objectives
  • 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
  • the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

You must submit one appendix describing the skills and experience of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 or US Letter pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Outcomes and route to market

How will the project team work together to grow their businesses and increase 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, 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

You must submit one appendix containing the project team’s draft Consortium/Collaboration Agreement, which is expected to be finalised and signed no later than 90 days following project kick-off. You may use your own template or adapt one of the Lambert Model Agreements to suit your team and its goals.

Question 9. 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
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You must submit a project plan including Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 or US Letter pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 10. 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 A4 or US Letter pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 11. Costs and value for money

Describe how you will finance your share of the Research, Development and Commercialisation, and the role that public funding may play in your success.

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
  • the difference the public funding would make to the businesses involved
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

You must complete the project financial cost breakdown template provided to the Canadian partners in your consortium by IRAP and upload it as an appendix to this question. All partners in the consortium must work together to complete the project financials on the first page by entering a high-level summary of the full project cost breakdown in both national currencies. The template also includes a cost breakdown for the Canadian partners because Canadian SMEs will enter zeroes into the finance sections of the Innovation Funding Service.

(Edited 5 March 2020: we have improved the guidance about the question 11 template to make clear it needs to be completed by Canadian and UK partners.)

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details.

All Canadian organisations will need to enter zeroes into the finance section of the Innovation Funding Service and ensure their grant percentage amount is set to zero. Their full costs must be entered into the project financial cost breakdown template provided by NRC IRAP to the lead applicant of eligible applications. This must be uploaded as an appendix as part of question 11 of the application. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our Innovate UK project costs guidance or contact your IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor.

Background and further information

Online matchmaking events

IRAP will hold 2 matchmaking events, on 21 February 2020 and 13 March 2020. If you are interested in participating in one or both of these, visit the registration website, create an online profile and select the dates that interest you. Participants' profiles will be visible to all who are interested in this collaboration opportunity. If you need more details you can email Gordon Jolly, Industrial Technology Advisor at IRAP International.

Extra help

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

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

Help from Enterprise Europe Network

For UK projects, upon award, you will be contacted by your local Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Innovation Adviser, acting on behalf of Innovate UK, who will discuss the growth opportunities for your business and offer bespoke business support services to help you maximise your project and business potential.

This service forms part of your Innovate UK offer under our commitment to help UK SMEs to grow and scale. It is only available to SMEs. Please engage positively with your EEN contact so that, working together, you can determine the most appropriate form of growth support for your business.

IRAP International

NRC IRAP connects Canadian innovators with international research and development partners to help them grow their business beyond Canada’s borders. We create opportunities for firms to explore collaborative partnerships and develop effective multinational consortiums leading to co-innovation projects. With NRC IRAP’s support, Canadian businesses are better equipped to build their innovation capacity, successfully commercialise their technology and become more competitive in the global marketplace.

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GrowGlobalWithNRC to stay up to date on the latest international opportunities.

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