Farming community gets funding boost to develop innovative solutions - Research Starter Competition

Posted on: 04/01/2023
harvesting vehicle in field, aerial view

Farmers, growers and foresters with ambitious, early-stage ideas to increase productivity and environmental sustainability in their sectors have been receiving funding through the Research Starter competition.

Several projects have already been funded via two rounds of the competition (read more about the projects here) and another round is opening in January 2023.

Our AgriFood team will tell you below what this competition is about, and how it is helping to improve agriculture and solve long-term challenges facing farmers, growers and foresters.

Bringing new ideas from the farming community to life

Defra and Innovate UK work together via the Farming Innovation Programme to deliver the Research Starter competition. They aim to ensure that innovation funding is really supporting the issues that the farming community in England faces now and in the future.

This competition offers the farming community the opportunity to investigate the problems they think are most important to their businesses.Through working collaboratively with academic and industry partners, they develop innovative ideas and solutions that can be rapidly investigated and trialled.

It’s great to work with a dynamic group of researchers and vets in this Research Starter project. The experience of working together has been enlightening for everyone involved. We each come from very different spaces and perspectives and it has been a lot of fun to meet in the middle. Working together means the findings of our project will be positively received by both the farming and academic communities. Having myself involved means that the results will be relevant to what is seen and needed in the field.

– Matt Smith, M & P Smith, Trefranck Farm: working on a Research Starter project on how genetic variation in sheep impacts tolerance or resistance to worms.

Funding for innovations solving a wide range of challenges  

The competition has funded a wide range of projects looking at ways to improve productivity and sustainability in agriculture. For example, projects are exploring new ways to investigate links between methane emissions and genetics to select stock for breeding, robots to allow polycultures to be planted more easily, and ways to better utilise soil data. By looking across sectors a diverse range of challenges are being addressed simultaneously with the potential to impact across the English farming community, and beyond.

We’ve been really impressed with the quantity and quality of the applications from real farmers, growers and foresters to address significant problems that they experience. It’s great that through this project funding they can engage with research organisations and technical companies to investigate and develop their ideas. We look forward to positive outcomes for these projects so that they can potentially progress through further Farming Innovation Programme competition rounds to create new products and services that have clear and useful benefits to farmers, growers and foresters in England.

– Robert Crook, Innovation Lead Agri-Food, Innovate UK

Supporting people to access funding from Innovate UK for the first time 

This competition is slightly different to others offered by Innovate UK because it actively targets applicants that have not previously been awarded Innovate UK funding. The Innovate UK KTN AgriFood team is a key part in the process, providing one-to-one ‘Innovation Broker’ support to help applicants refine their initial ideas into a project, to identify the right partners to work with to take it forward and to complete the final stage of the application process.

Applicants to the Research Starter competition are from the farming community and therefore they really understand the problems facing agriculture, but equally, they might not normally take their clever idea beyond a discussion with a friend, or a daydream about a better way of farming. Through the Research Starter competition they are able to access funding to develop their own solutions by working on their application alongside someone from Innovate UK KTN who can help to make sense of the innovation funding application process.

It’s been great to support solutions which will have a positive impact on the problems faced by UK farmers. Through weekly meetings to discuss the project and application process, you really get to know the people behind the ideas and their project and so I have been able to spend time helping applicants where they need it most.

Joanna Scales, Knowledge Transfer Manager, UK and International AgriFood, Innovate UK KTN

What next? 

With a future round of the Research Starter competition launching in 2023, keep an eye out for this great opportunity to explore your idea, improve your business and make a positive impact on agriculture.

Sign up for our AgriFood email updates to hear about future rounds of the Research Starter competition and other funding opportunities.

If you have an innovative AgriFood idea and are new to innovation funding, get in touch with our AgriFood team for support.

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Joanna Scales

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Projects funded through the Farming Innovation Programme Research Starter competition


Projects funded through the Farming Innovation Programme Research Starter competition

The Research Starter competition funds farmers, growers and foresters with ambitious, early-stage ideas to increase productivity and environmental sustainability in agriculture or horticulture. Find out more about the funded projects.

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