Pioneering Agri-Tech Innovation for a Sustainable Future

Posted on: 04/10/2023
Group of summit attendees including Indro Mukerjee, Innovate UK CEO and George Freeman, Minister of State in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

The UK holds a prominent position on the global stage when it comes to agri-tech, an industry that plays a pivotal role in our economic landscape and contributes significantly to our exports. This achievement is, without a doubt, the result of relentless innovation within the sector.

Innovate UK has been a dedicated and consistent supporter of the UK’s agri-tech sector. Our commitment is unwavering, and we strive to collaborate with industry stakeholders to forge a greener, healthier, and more prosperous society.

Last week, Innovate UK was actively engaging in a range of activities to drive change in food production, distribution, and consumption, addressing global challenges like climate change, sustainability, health, and food security.

Merger of Agri-Tech Centres paves way for future ambitions

The World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in London last week kicked off with two thought-provoking keynotes led by Innovate UK CEO, Indro Mukerjee, and Minister of State in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman, focusing on the pivotal role of the UK in fostering an innovative agri-tech ecosystem.

Starting off the summit, Indro Mukerjee’s address highlighted the significance of agri-tech in the UK, emphasising its global leadership, economic importance, and innovative prowess. He stressed the role of agri-tech in addressing pressing global challenges, including climate change and food security, and called for a fundamental transformation in food production through innovation. Moreover, he showcased Innovate UK’s unwavering commitment to supporting the UK’s agri-tech sector, including funding projects, facilitating collaborations, and aiding SMEs.

Following this, Minister Freeman reinforced agri-tech’s pivotal role in the UK and global agriculture sector. He outlined support for crucial areas like engineering biology and data, and cited Syngenta as a testament to strong industry R&D.

Minister Freeman mentioned thriving business clusters in York, Norwich, and Scotland, setting the stage for the merger of three Agri-Tech Centres and the proposal to establish a new Catapult. This new single entity will facilitate a stronger cross-sectoral approach and drive better outcomes for the agri-tech sector across innovation, commercialisation, and adoption.

Robotics and Automation for Sustainable Agriculture

Farming Minister Mark Spencer delivered the day 2 keynote at the World Agri-tech Innovation Summit, where he set out the government’s approach to agri-tech and innovation including the announcement of £12.5m to 12 projects to develop automative and robotic technologies to boost sustainable farming. The funding was awarded through the Farming Futures Automation and Robotics competition, part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme, delivered by Innovate UK.

Fostering Innovation in Plant-Based Proteins

Last week, Innovate UK welcomed a delegation of six Canadian organisations to the UK as part of the bilateral partnership with Protein Industries Canada (PIC), announced earlier this year.

The delegation’s visit included engaging activities such as visits to UK universities, participation in an Alternative Protein Partnering Event held at Canada House in London, and attendance at the Future Food-Tech conference.

The timing of this visit is significant, coinciding with the recent announcement of a collaborative R&D competition tailored for innovative solutions in the plant-based protein industry. The £6.5m Canada-UK: Plant-based Protein Innovation competition is now open for proposals. Consortia interested in participating must include a minimum of three businesses. Innovate UK encourages UK-based entities to forge partnerships with at least one Canadian SME and one additional business, which can originate from either the UK or Canada.

Strengthening Ties: A Continuation of Our Partnership with Canada

Innovate UK also played host last week to Cultivator, an agri-tech incubator based in Regina. Cultivator has successfully nurtured two cohorts of UK SMEs, alongside Canadian companies, including Canadian SMEs, in both 2022 and 2023.

The event featured welcome remarks from prominent figures, including Stella Peace, the Executive Director for the Healthy Living and Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK, the High Commissioner for Canada in the UK, the Minister of Trade and Export Development, the Minister Responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan. Pitch presentations were then provided by SMEs that had gone through the Cultivator programme ahead of facilitated meetings between the company founders and private investors attending the event.

After the event, Indro Mukerkee facilitated a meeting between Innovate UK and Saskatchewan representatives. During the meeting, we reaffirmed our dedication to nurturing and expanding collaborations in the field of agri-tech.

UK Priorities for Food Tech Innovation Funding

Rounding off the week, Innovate UK were at the Future Food-Tech conference, hosting a roundtable discussing the most critical issues facing the food-tech industry.

Stella Peace led a discussion around the recently published “Food industry priorities for a sustainable food system” report which sets out nine priority areas for the food industry across the three key areas of Innovate UK: Net Zero, Healthy Living and Agriculture, and Digital and Technologies. Those around the table, including multinationals, agreed by these priorities as the areas where CR&D investment in innovation will be impactful for the sector. One of the main insights gained from the session emphasised the importance of providing cost-effective, healthier food options that align with evolving consumer preferences.

Cultivating a brighter tomorrow

The UK possesses the capability to lead the world in confronting the challenges of our food system. However, collaboration is the linchpin of success in this venture.

Connect with us and be part of this transformative journey towards a more sustainable and prosperous future through agri-tech innovation.

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Related Opportunities

Canada-UK: Plant-based Protein Innovation

Opens: 18/09/2023 Closes: 01/11/2023

UK registered organisations, in collaboration with Canadian organisations, can apply for a share of up to £6.5m for plant-based protein projects.

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David Telford

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