Agri-tech catalyst round 10: agriculture and food systems, late stage
UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £2.5 million to work on agri-tech and food chain innovations in Africa.
- Competition opens: Monday 20 July 2020
- Competition closes: Thursday 22 October 2020 11:00am
This competition is now closed.
(Update 21 October 2020: we have extended the competition close date to allow an extra 24 hours for submissions due to a technical issue.)
Up to £2.5 million of funding is available from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) across the 3 strands. This is for projects working on agri-tech and food chain innovations with partners in eligible African countries.
The aim of this competition is to increase the pace of innovation in the development of agricultural and food systems in Africa. Your project must result in more use of innovations by farmers and food systems organisations, such as manufacturers, processors, retailers, distributors and wholesalers.
We are running 3 strands to this competition at the same time:
- Early stage feasibility studies.
- Mid stage industrial research.
- Late stage experimental development (this competition).
It is your responsibility to make sure you are applying for the correct strand.The competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.
For late stage experimental development, your total eligible project costs must be between £150,000 and £800,000.
Who can apply
Any UK registered business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. It is not possible to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance on state aid.
Your project must:
- have total eligible costs between £150,000 and £800,000
- start by 1 April 2021
- last up to 18 months
All projects must:
- be collaborative
- include a UK registered lead applicant organisation (known in previous rounds as the ‘administrative lead’)
- include a technical lead, from any country
- include at least one business from the UK
- include at least one business from an eligible African country from the list below
- implement significant activity in the eligible African country
The roles of lead applicant and technical lead could be carried out by a single UK organisation.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) can join the consortium as non-grant claiming partners. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.
The lead applicant:
- must be a UK registered business of any size
- will be responsible for completing the application
- will be the recipient of the award (referred to as ‘project manager’ in the Innovation Funding Service)
- will manage and be accountable for the project’s finances in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award
- must claim grant funding through this competition
- can partner in up to 2 other applications where they are neither the lead applicant nor the technical lead
The technical lead:
- will lead on the development of the scope, work packages within the project and other work from a technical perspective
- can be a business of any size from any country
- must claim grant funding through this competition and be invited to join the application by the lead applicant
- can also be the lead applicant if it is a UK registered business
Find out which definition your organisation falls into.
Innovate UK acknowledges that the legal categories for institutions differ in other countries. If you wish to partner with an organisation that does not fit into the categories listed above, email firstname.lastname@example.org at least 10 working days before the competition registration deadline. We will decide whether to approve your request.
Eligible African countries
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Congo (Brazzaville)
- Congo, Democratic Republic of
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Gambia, The
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
If you have any questions about the eligibility or grant rate of African country organisations, email email@example.com.
Across the 3 competition strands:
- any one UK registered organisation can be the lead applicant or technical lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications
- if a UK registered business is not leading an application as lead applicant or technical lead, it can collaborate in up to 3 applications
- if an academic institution or research and technology organisation (RTO) is not leading on any applications they can collaborate on any number of applications in the early and mid-stage competitions. They can only be subcontractors in the late stage competition
Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the world. We would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.
Funding for this competition comes from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
In view of the overseas nature of this funding, there are some additional assurance requirements:
- successful UK applicants must demonstrate they have proper and transparent arrangements for passing grant monies to African partners applying for funding, or grant funding will be withdrawn
- Innovate UK will carry out initial due diligence and final audit checks on all non-UK partners
- Innovate UK has the right to refuse funding to projects where the cost of due diligence and monitoring requirements outweigh the potential benefits of funding. This decision will be made as part of our risk-based considerations.
You can use a resubmission to apply for this competition.
Failure to exploit (UK applicants)
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.
- 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 (UK applicants)Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you must 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.
Up to £2.5 million is available from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to fund innovation projects in the 3 strands of this competition.
If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.
For the late stage experimental development projects, you 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
We use the EU definition of an SME to determine business size for both EU and international businesses.
For late stage projects, research organisations cannot claim funding but can participate as subcontractors.This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Collaborative research and development, industrial research’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.
There are many opportunities and challenges for food systems, as described by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.
We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities, research categories and different strands of the competition.
Your proposal must show the potential to have a positive impact on poverty through the uptake of agricultural and food systems technology and innovation.
You can choose from one or more of the following areas:
- primary crop and livestock production, including aquaculture
- non-food uses of crops, excluding ornamentals
- challenges in food processing, distribution or storage, and value addition (such as through a change in the physical state or form of the product)
- improving the availability and accessibility of safe, healthy and nutritious foods
Your project’s innovations must:
- be sustainable in the context of environmental challenges such as climate change and resource scarcity
- minimise negative effects such as pollution, food loss and waste
- promote safe, healthy and nutritious diets
Your project and its outcomes must fit within the Official Development Assistance (ODA) criteria.
Your application must demonstrate how the primary benefit from your project will be a contribution to international development outcomes, specifically:
- enhanced food and nutrition security and
- welfare of the poor in urban and rural areas in developing countries
Activities carried out in the UK must clearly deliver impact in an eligible African country. Any benefits to the UK must be secondary in nature and result from delivering the primary benefit. Your proposal must clearly demonstrate the ways it will have an impact in the country.
If your project will support crop breeding it must have clear potential for impact at scale, in more than one eligible African country.
Gender analysis and data disaggregation
Men and women experience poverty differently and face different obstacles to moving out of poverty. A significant gender gap in agriculture means women have unequal access to and control over productive assets and income. This is despite contributing a significant share of agricultural labour.
If your project is not sensitive to how this affects agricultural productivity, marketing and processing, the impact will be limited and potentially exacerbate gender inequalities. You should not assume that the household is a unit in which everything is pooled and shared and in which one person makes decisions on behalf of all household members.
Your proposal should recognise that to promote gender equality and empower girls and women is not only a goal in its own right. It is often a means to improving agricultural productivity or achieving food and nutrition security.
You must include an analysis of the gender factors affecting the innovation. For example, you may find it is inappropriate to refer to ‘farmers’ without indicating whether you are referring to male farmers, female farmers, or both. Consider whether you need to include expertise on gender and social analysis within your project.
You must separate data about other variables, where relevant, such as ethnicity, age, disability and spatial geography. There is more guidance in question 7.
You must make sure that all your proposed research, both in the UK and internationally, complies with the principles of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) and other UK funders’ common guidance on Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research.
We will not fund projects likely to directly compromise farm animal welfare outcomes. Projects likely to benefit animal welfare will be viewed favourably.
UK institutions should be aware of this extract from the guidance:
“When collaborating with other laboratories, or where animal facilities are provided by third parties, researchers and the local ethics committee in the UK should satisfy themselves that welfare standards consistent with the principles of UK legislation (e.g. the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986), and set out in this guidance, are applied and maintained. Where there are significant deviations, prior approval from the funding body should be sought and agreed.”
Examples of specific themes
Your project can focus on any area that improves the uptake of agricultural and food systems technology and innovation, for example:
- integrating smallholders into global and local supply chains
- increasing the value of production to smallholders
- control of crop pests, weeds and diseases
- meeting quality standards and improving productivity
- reducing food losses ‘post-farm gate’ and through the value chain
- addressing food safety issues through the value chain
- new food technologies and data-driven food systems, including for urban areas
- addressing challenges in downstream food processing, distribution, or storage and value addition
- innovation that supports food systems to deliver nutritious, healthy and safe food
Projects we will not fund
We are not funding:
- forestry or ornamentals
- wild-capture fisheries
- crops for energy production
- projects that support the tobacco industry
- 9 July 2020
- Crop production event: watch the recording
- 9 July 2020
- Livestock and aquaculture event: watch the recording
- 9 July 2020
- Food systems and nutrition event: watch the recording
- 20 July 2020
- Competition opens
- 28 July 2020
- Online briefing event
- 22 October 2020 11:00am
- Competition closes
- 11 March 2021 3:18pm
- Applicants notified
Before you start
You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.
Innovate UK is unable to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty.
If your organisation is not registered in the UK and is:
- a business, you must apply as a business
- an academic institution, you must apply as a ‘non-J-eS registered organisation’
- a research organisation which is not a university, you must apply as an RTO
If you need more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9 am to 11:30 am and 2 pm to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).
The lead applicant is responsible for the following:
- collecting the information for the application
- submitting the finished application
- representing the consortium if your application is successful
- making payment to their project partners
What we ask you
The application is split into 3 sections:
- Project details.
- Application questions.
1. Project details
This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.
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.
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 not be eligible for funding.Your answer can be up to 400 words long.
2. Application questions
The assessors will score your answers except for questions 1 and 2. You will receive feedback from them for each one.
Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.
Question 1. Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)
We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.
You must complete this EDI survey (opens in a new window) and type ‘EDI survey completed’ within your answer. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.
This question is not scored.
Question 2. Consortium
How is your consortium made up?
List all organisations in your project, and for each give:
- its full business address, including the country where it is based
- its role – lead applicant, technical lead, lead applicant and technical lead or other partner
This question is not scored.
Question 3. Business opportunity
What is the business opportunity that this project addresses?
Outline the business opportunity and what the project team needs to do to successfully address it within the preferred timeframe and cost.
Describe the nature of the international development challenge or issues facing you and/or your potential customers. How will the intended outputs of the project respond to these challenges and issues?
Question 4. Market opportunity
What is the size of the market opportunity that this project might open up?
- the current nature of the specific market or markets the project is targeting, including whether it is characterised by price competition among commoditised suppliers or dominated by a single leading firm
- the dynamics of the market, including measuring its current size, actual and predicted growth rates
- the projected market share for the project outcome, with justification in the light of any potential competitors
- the potential to add value to the economy of the developing country organisation and any secondary benefits to the UK or European Economic Area (EEA)
Describe and clearly quantify the return on investment that the project could achieve. Provide relevant source data references.
Where possible provide evidence for your statements about the target market for project outcomes. Outline your strategy for developing market share.
For highly innovative projects (see question 9) where the market may be unexplored, explain:
- what the route to market could or might be
- what its size might be
- how the project will explore the market potential
Question 5. Project results
How will the results of the project be exploited and disseminated?
Describe or explain the potential exploitable outputs of:
- products or services
Then describe how these outputs will be exploited including, where applicable:
- the route to market
- protection of intellectual property rights (IPR)
- reconfiguration of the value system
- changes to business models and business processes
- other methods of exploitation and protection
- how they will deliver international development impact
Where it is helpful in the exchange of best practice, and is not damaging to commercial interests, we expect you to make public the results from this work. You must include a plan for the distribution of generic outputs from the funded project.
Question 6. Official Development Assistance compliance
Why is the project eligible for Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding?
To be eligible for GCRF funding, you must clearly explain and give evidence for why and how your project fits within scope for Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliance
You must explain how your project’s main objective will be to promote the economic development and welfare of people in developing countries. Benefits to the UK and UK partners must be secondary.
Describe the benefits to project partners and to those people outside the consortium (in the developing country, particularly people in poverty and underserved groups). Make a clear distinction between the two. Be clear about what stakeholder groups in the developing country you expect to benefit from this project. Avoid making generic statements.
Describe any expected socio-economic impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:
- quality of life
- social inclusion or exclusion
- jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
- public empowerment
- health and safety
You must explain how the project will, or has the potential to, deliver outcomes and impact in agriculture and food systems in Africa. Particularly, how it will help the poorest members of society, including women, girls and other disadvantaged groups? Explain what those benefits are and who will benefit. Be clear about how you will make sure there is a clear route to impact after the project has ended.
You must show you are eligible for ODA by providing further information in the appendix, including a basic logic model. The appendix must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Only applications that meet the eligibility, scope and ODA requirements of the competition will be sent for assessment. You will be notified if your application is not sent for assessment with an explanation as to why.
Question 7. International Development (Gender Equality) Act compliance
How is your project compliant with the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014?
How is your project helping to promote gender equality and social inclusion?
Your answer is a mandatory requirement for all GCRF programmes under the International Development (Gender Equality) Act, 2014.
Successful applicants may be invited to attend a workshop on gender equality and social inclusion to discuss good practice and share experiences. Innovate UK will separately reimburse expenses for attending this workshop. Further detail on what you can claim will be provided prior to event.
Who is involved?
To make sure that your innovation has the highest chance of being successfully adopted, you will need to understand the cultures, attitudes and other context specific factors in the African country you are focusing on.
In order to deliver the desired economic and societal impacts, you will need to take into account gender equality and social inclusion issues by:
- highlighting any relevant diversity and social inclusion experience or expertise within the core project team and their organisations
- providing information on any partner organisations you are already working with and their role and expertise related to gender equality and social inclusion, such as community groups, NGOs or government stakeholders
- identifying where you see the need to build new links with partner organisations and why
How will you factor this into your project plan?
- how your project will address gender equality and social inclusion issues, including for poorer consumers, disabled people and older people
- how you will measure this
- how this will feed into the overall project plan in question 8
What is the potential?
Describe your current understanding of:
- the expected outcomes of your project and benefits of your innovation on gender equality and social inclusion
- the potential negative effects of your project and innovation, and how you plan to mitigate against these
Describe any gaps in your current understanding and how you intend to address these.
Question 8. Technical approach
What technical approach will be adopted and how will the project be managed?
Provide an overview of the technical approach, including the main objectives of the work. Describe the main areas of work together with their resource and management requirements. State who will be the technical lead and why they are suitable.
In evaluating this the assessors will consider whether:
- the technical approach and methodology are appropriate to the needs of the project
- the innovative steps are achievable through the proposed approach
- the project plan matches the complexity of the project, including whether there is detail to understand the tasks involved and the resources required
- the main milestones are realistic
- it demonstrates enough resource commitment and capability to undertake the project
- you have identified clear management reporting lines
Describe rival technologies and alternative research and development (R&D) strategies and describe why your proposed approach will offer a better outcome.
You must submit a project plan as an appendix. It must include a chronological schedule of project activities presented in graphical form (such as a Gantt chart). It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
In your project plan:
- clearly indicate the estimated time required for the completion of each main task in addition to milestones
- identify specific participant assignments for each task in the project plan, even if this information was provided elsewhere
- describe each task assigned to a subcontractor or consultant, the location of the work, and a work breakdown structure (WBS) detailing the start date, end date and planned time commitment
If you are successful and offered funding, you will be required to submit a more detailed project plan that will be used to monitor project progress.
Question 9. Innovation
What is innovative about this project?
Identify the extent to which the project is innovative, both commercially and technically.
Assessors will consider whether your project:
- pushes boundaries over and beyond current leading-edge world science and technology
- is looking to apply existing technologies in new areas
Explain how the research aspects of the project are timely and novel in an industrial and/or academic context.
Your project will not be eligible if it is primarily designed to support a commercial investment.
Describe any evidence you have to support your belief that your intended work is innovative. This could include the results of patent searches, competitor analyses, literature surveys and so on. If applicable, outline your own background intellectual property rights related to the project.
Question 10. Risks
What are the risks (technical, commercial and environmental) to project success? What is the project’s risk management strategy?
Innovate UK recognises that projects of this type are inherently risky, but we look for assurance that the projects we fund have adequate arrangements for managing this risk.
Describe or explain:
- the main risks and uncertainties of the project and providing a detailed risk analysis for the project content and approach. Include the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks as well as other uncertainties (for example ethical issues) associated with the project. Rate the main risks as high, medium or low (H/M/L).
- how the project would avoid these main risks.
- the vital project management tools and mechanisms that will be used to help minimise operational risk and promote a successful project outcome. This should include arrangements for managing the project team and its partners.
You can submit a risk register as an appendix. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 11. Project team
Do the project team have the right skills, experience and access to facilities to deliver the identified benefits?
Describe the track record of the project team members in undertaking and exploiting the results of R&D projects. Highlight your capability to develop and exploit the technology.
Describe or explain:
- the track record of the project team members in undertaking and exploiting the results of R&D projects
- the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project that will enable you to deliver the project successfully
- your formation objectives
- whether the team would have been formed without investment from this competition
- the additional benefits that will come from the collaboration, such as increased knowledge transfer
- the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
You must submit a draft collaboration agreement (CA) as an appendix. It must be in PDF format and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
If your application is successful, the final CA must be signed by all consortium members in the developing country and the UK before the grant is confirmed. Please see the Lambert Toolkit for example formats.
UK and developing country organisations are free to develop alternative formats for their CA, but they must include clauses on intellectual property (IP) management, dispute resolution and governing law.
Question 12: Finance commitment
What is the financial commitment required for the project?
Explain the project costs you have listed in the finances section of your application. These must be consistent with the category of R&D being undertaken within each work package. Please see our general guidance for further details on our categories of research and development.
If the project spans more than one type of funding (for example because significant work packages are in both mid stage industrial research and late stage experimental development), you must describe and justify the breakdown of costs between them.
In evaluating your answer the assessors will consider whether:
- the budget is realistic for the scale and complexity of the project
- the financial support required from this competition fits within the limits set by the specific competition
- a financial commitment from other sources is demonstrated for the balance of the project costs
- a realistic budget breakdown has been provided
- any work package breakdowns have been described and justified adequately
Find out more about eligible and ineligible project costs.
Question 13: Added value
How does financial support from Innovate UK and its funding collaborators add value?
What impact would an injection of public funding have on the partners 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
Each organisation in your project must complete its own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. UK academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.
For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.Finances must be in pounds for all organisations, including overseas partners.
Background and further information
If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.
If you need more information about how to apply, email email@example.com or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 11:30am and 2pm to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).
Enterprise Europe Network
If you are a UK SME and successful in receiving an award, you will be contacted by your local Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Innovation Advisor. They act on behalf of Innovate UK to discuss the growth opportunities for your business. They 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 grow and scale. Please engage positively with your EEN contact so that, working together, you can determine the most appropriate form of growth support for your business.
International development impact of agriculture and food systems
75% of the poorest people in Africa live in rural areas. They rely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods. Several factors place stress on the food system, especially in poor countries:
- climate change and resource scarcity
- demographic and dietary changes
- transformations to the organisation and functioning of markets
These challenges threaten the gains made in addressing global hunger and poverty over recent decades. The current pace of technological development and uptake is too slow to respond to these challenges. Agricultural and food systems innovation is low in developing countries, particularly Africa. For example, the share of cultivatable land planted with modern crop varieties in Africa is only 28%. This compares with 65% globally.
Without immediate action, the situation is set to worsen dramatically over the next 20 years as powerful drivers of change, such as population growth, climate change and urbanisation, converge on our food systems.
Emerging food systems that supply urban areas in developing countries need to deliver nutritious and safe food to support population health.
Innovations in food systems must be sustainable in the context of environmental challenges (such as climate) and resource scarcity. At the same time they must minimise the negative effect of external influences such as pollution, food losses and waste across all parts of the food system. The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition provides more information on opportunities and challenges for food systems.
In low and middle income countries (LMICs), the intended users of new technology and innovation, whether producers or consumers, are often poor with limited purchasing power. This leaves businesses with little incentive to develop relevant technologies for the end user. The poor are a user group businesses are less familiar with. This makes it difficult for businesses to assess the potential demand for new technologies and the returns are uncertain or unknown. This increases the risk involved in developing new products for this demographic.
Funding through the Agri-tech Catalyst aims to encourage activity in the rapidly transforming field of agricultural systems and food value chains in developing countries. This will reduce risks, introduce new players and potentially lead to new enterprises.
There is scope for research to explore how urban, peri-urban and rural areas can harness existing and new technologies. Opportunities include processing, value addition, management and reduction of food loss and food waste, and food safety.
The Catalyst mechanism provides an excellent opportunity to use UK agri-tech sector skills to support international development and identify new markets for UK technology and skills. It will also help the agri-tech sector in developing countries to source new technology and learn from the world-leading UK sector.
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