Government launches £20m contest for agriculture technology

UK businesses can bid for backing for projects that use tech to improve how food gets from field to fork

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The government has launched a £20m contest for projects that aim to use technology to improve the efficiency of the agricultural sector and the food supply chain.

The contest opens on Monday and will award funding to projects featuring technology solutions to improve either a single, or multiple parts of the crop- or livestock-farming supply chain. Proposed projects should aim to either “drive productivity and improve environmental outcomes” in existing farming production systems, or “develop new, highly efficient, high-value production systems that maximise productivity and improve environmental performance”.

Such productivity gains could be achieved by “combining digital technologies and engineering solutions with biological, environment or social science”, the government said, or by “developing technologies and systems that connect farms and supply chains”. Projects could also propose ways of “transferring an innovative technology from another sector into agriculture”.

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UK businesses can bid to receive funding equivalent to as much as 70% of their expected project costs, up to a total of £2m for initiatives focused on a single part of the supply chain, and £5m for solutions targeting multiple areas. Funding for projects costing less than £100,000 will be exclusively available to SMEs.

To secure funding, projects require “a clear route to market” and must have an “optimised prototype that can be demonstrated within the production system or supply chain”. Bidders need to be able to commence work by April 2019, and projects can last up to 36 months.

The £20m funding pot is drawn from the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and will be provided by UK Research and Innovation, a collective of nine public research councils. Awards will be delivered by Innovate UK.

Potential bidders are invited to attend a webinar on 27 August and an event in Birmingham two days later. Applications for funding are open until 24 October.

Sam Trendall

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