Funding competition Farming Innovation Pathways (FIP) – feasibility studies

UK registered businesses and research organisations can apply for a share of up to £5 million for feasibility studies to address the farming challenges of productivity, sustainability, and net zero emissions.

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Competition sections

Description

The aim of this competition is to support the development of novel innovations to develop and support a productive, resilient, and sustainable agricultural sector.

This funding is delivered through the ISCF Transforming Food Production programme, in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

This development is achieved through the investment of up to £5 million in feasibility studies in the agricultural sector.

Your project must address one or more high priority areas in at least one of these four industry subsectors:

  • Livestock.
  • Plant.
  • Novel food production systems.
  • Bioeconomy and agroforestry.

Your proposal must engage with farmers, growers or producers to explore the potential of early-stage farm-focused solutions. These solutions must solve the short to long-term challenges of productivity, sustainability, and net zero emissions.”

This competition is split into 2 strands:

  1. feasibility studies (this strand)
  2. industrial research

In applying to this competition you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £75,000 and £250,000.

Who can apply

Funding for this competition is from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Future Farming and Countryside Programme. Your project can be based anywhere in the UK but must generate benefits to the English farming sector.

This competition is for collaborative feasibility studies only.

Your proposal should focus on the early-stage development of technologies, systems or approaches that will make significant steps towards improving productivity, increasing sustainability and resilience. It must:

  • demonstrate or deliver outcomes or benefits for farmers
  • help the agriculture sector to move towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040


We expect your project to have clear links to farmers, growers, agri-businesses, and other potential end users. Your proposal must show that you have considered the appropriate business models and routes to adoption and have sought the relevant expertise to enable this.

You must address problems identified by farmer and industry needs so that your innovative solution can be integrated into the sector with the potential to be widely adopted.

Any awards given to primary agricultural producers are subject to the green box exemption under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Please see further guidance on green box subsidies here WTO Guidance for support in Agriculture.

Applicants receiving this type of support must ensure that there is minimal to no distortion of trade and comply with the requirements of Annex 2 of the Agriculture Agreement.

This competition has two strands:

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £75,000 and £250,000
  • start by 1 October 2021
  • last between 12 and 18 months

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

Research organisation led projects must collaborate with at least one business.



Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, academic institution, research 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

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

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

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition and must be selected through a participant’s normal procurement process. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK. If an overseas subcontractor is selected, a case must be made as to why no UK-based subcontractor can be used including a detailed rationale, evidence of UK companies that have been approached and reasons why they were unable to do so.

We expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. A cheaper cost is not deemed as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

Number of applications

When a business leads on an application it can collaborate in a further 2 applications across both strands.

If a business is not leading any application, it can collaborate in up to 3 applications across both strands.

When an RTO leads on an application, it can collaborate in a further 2 applications within this strand and any number within the Industrial Research strand.

If an RTO is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications across both strands.

When a Research organisation leads on an application it can collaborate in a further 2 applications within this strand and any number within the Industrial Research strand.

When an academic institution leads on an application, it can collaborate in any number of applications across both strands.

Text update 10 March 2021: we have changed guidance on the number of applications to make it clearer how many applications you can submit.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.


We will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control

This competition provides funding in line with the UK's obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

European Commission State aid

You must apply under European Commission State aid rules if you are an applicant who is conducting activities that will affect trade of goods and/or electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU as envisaged by Article 10 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

In certain limited circumstances, the European Commission State aid rules may also apply if you are an organisation located in England, Wales, or Scotland and conduct activities that affect the trade of goods and electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU. For further information, please see section 7 of the BEIS technical guidance.

For further information see our general guidance on state aid and BEIS guidance on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

For applicants subject to the European Commission State aid rules, applicants will be required to prove that they were not an “Undertaking in Difficulty” (UiD) on the date of 31 December 2019 but became a UID between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2021. We will ask for evidence of this.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, please take independent legal advice.

You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.

Eligibility overview

Here is a diagram showing a summary of eligibility.

This is a new way of showing you eligibility. Your feedback will help us to improve it.

Funding

We have allocated up to £5 million to fund innovation projects in this feasibility studies competition.

If your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For feasibility studies you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

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

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

We may adjust the levels of overall funding available in both the feasibility and industrial research strands in this competition. This will be to fund the portfolio of projects that are most likely to achieve the challenge aims.


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

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Your proposal

The aim of the Farming Innovation Pathways (FIP) competition is to develop and support a productive, resilient, and sustainable agricultural sector. Novel solutions are needed to produce healthy food for consumption, where farms can be profitable and economically sustainable without subsidy.

Funding for this competition is from Defra’s Future Farming and Countryside programme. Projects can be based anywhere in the UK but must be able to clearly demonstrate potential benefits to the English farming sector.

Your project must engage with farmers, growers or producers to explore the potential of early-stage farm-focused solutions. These solutions must solve the short to long-term challenges of productivity, sustainability, and net zero emissions.

To meet these challenges, your project must focus on innovative solutions that can be integrated into the sector with the potential to be taken up and widely adopted.

Your project must address at least one of the four industry subsectors:

  • Livestock
  • Plant
  • Novel food production systems.
  • Bioeconomy and agroforestry.

Your project must focus on one or more of the high priority areas listed below.

Livestock (for example: beef, dairy, sheep, pigs, poultry)

  • improving resource use efficiency, particularly feed efficiency
  • advances in breeding and genetic improvement
  • improving animal health and welfare
  • improved data capture, management and decision support
  • intelligent housing solutions
  • manure and slurry management

Plant (for example: arable, horticulture, vegetable production):

  • reducing reliance on fossil fuels and agrochemical inputs
  • improving resource use efficiency, particularly fertiliser
  • improving soil health
  • improving sustainability of growth substrates (horticulture)
  • diversification of rotations with novel crops
  • advances in breeding and genetic improvement
  • improving the quality, nutritional characteristics and life of arable and horticultural produce
  • increasing automation for crop husbandry and harvesting

Novel food production systems:

  • insect production for feed
  • controlled environment agriculture

Bioeconomy and agroforestry:

  • developing opportunities for UK farmers, growers and foresters in the Bioeconomy (primary focus must be on food or feed production)
  • integrating biomass and agroforestry into traditional farmed systems and land-use practice, improving sustainability, productivity and income diversification

Integrated approaches:

we are also encouraging applicants with proposals which are developing or improving integrated plant and livestock systems.

The high-priority areas listed are not intended to be exhaustive.

If your project’s scope falls outside of our criteria, you must provide justification by email to support@innovateuk.ukri.org at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

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

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We will not give subsidies to projects:

  • that are equine-specific
  • for amenity and ornamental horticulture
  • for aquaculture or wild caught fisheries
  • that do not primarily benefit farming in England
  • that are dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • that are dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example if we insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product
1 March 2021
Competition opens
3 March 2021
Applicant briefing event: watch the recording
11 March 2021
KTN consortium building event: register to join
28 April 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
18 June 2021
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

This section provides background 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.

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

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 and then select yes in the application question. 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.

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 200 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 100 words long.

Scope

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 200 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 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Text update 19 February 2021: we have changed the word count for each question to match the IFS application form.

Question 1. Need or challenge

What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the farming or agricultural identified problem, need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • how the project outputs 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
  • how you will engage the farming or grower community
  • how your project will complement existing technologies to deliver more efficient and sustainable farm production systems
  • 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 one appendix. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. 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, particularly in the light of any continuing COVID-19 restrictions
  • the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, 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 taking into account the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the team structure

You must submit one appendix. This can include a short summary of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. 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 that 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 take the outcomes of the project forward, ensuring appropriate business models and routes to adoption are in place?

Describe or explain:

  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example why they would use or buy your product
  • your approach to considering appropriate business models
  • your approach to considering routes to adoption, particularly if COVID-19 has changed market dynamics,
  • how you propose to take the outcomes of the project forward
  • 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. 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 to the work of competitors the nearest current state-of-the-art in both UK and internationally, 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 7. Outcomes and wider impacts

What will your project deliver and how it will meet the aims and objectives of the competition?

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.

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, taking into account the possible impact of further COVID-19 restrictions

You must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. 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
  • 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 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 10. Added value

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

Describe or explain:

  • whether 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?

In terms of the project goals, describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs
  • the grant you are requesting
  • 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 subcontractor costs and why they are critical to the project

Question 12. Project partners location (not scored)

Your answer can be up to 400 words long. Please state the name of each organisation along with its full registered address. If you are working with an academic institution this doesn’t need to be included.

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply email support@innovateuk.ukri.org 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).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

Finding a project partner

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

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) will also be running a collaboration building workshop on 11 March. This is to help applicants better understand the competition requirements and find project partners.

Support for SMEs from Innovate UK EDGE

If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of our funded offer to you.

These specialists focus on growing innovative businesses and ensuring that projects contribute to their growth. Working one-to-one, they can help you to identify your best strategy and harness world-class resources to grow and achieve scale.

We encourage you to engage with EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.

Need help with this service? Contact us