STFC funding and support available to boost productivity in agri-food companies

Posted on: 01/10/2018

Learn about STFC support to help boost productivity in agriculture, food and drink companies at the B4I Agri-food Roadshow event on 14 November. 

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is a multidisciplinary research organisation that funds and operates a number of large science facilities offering research and development access to commercial users. Through these facilities, and their expert staff, they can provide access to advanced experimental and computational tools to address challenges in all aspects of the food production and packaging supply chain.

Their £8 million Bridging for Innovators (B4I) programme is specifically designed to help companies overcome difficult product, manufacturing or process performance issues by providing access to advanced analytical technologies, supporting expertise and capabilities through STFC’s large scale science facilities located around the UK. The ultimate aim is to support UK industry to overcome challenges and boost their productivity.

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STFC’s world-class facilities

STFC’s facilities include:

ISIS Neutron and Muon Source¬†-¬†ISIS Neutron and Muon Source produces beams of neutrons and muons that allow scientists to study materials at the atomic level using a suite of instruments, often described as ‘super-microscopes.’

Diamond Light Source - the UK’s national synchrotron. It works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce bright light that scientists can use to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses and vaccines.

Central Laser Facility - wide-ranging laser applications include experiments in physics, chemistry and biology, accelerating subatomic particles to high energies, probing chemical reactions and studying biochemical and biophysical processes.

Hartree – high performance computing, big data and cognitive technologies.

ASTeC - ​​​​​the Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC) is a Centre of Excellence for study of the production, acceleration and delivery of charged particle beams.

UK Astronomy Technology Centre – with applications in¬†biomedical imaging and¬†instruments for monitoring the Earth’s environment from ground and space.

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Solving agri-food challenges by accessing STFC facilities

Companies who partner with STFC to solve challenges can obtain free access to STFC’s facilities to get a fresh perspective on difficult product, manufacturing or process performance issues, with the potential to achieve ground-breaking innovations.

For example, by accessing STFC’s Diamond Light Source facility, Unilever were able to¬†gain a better understanding of how processing conditions and ingredients affect the taste of ice cream.¬†The detailed study of how the freeze-thaw cycle can influence ice formation, at the microscopic level, is important in controlling ice cream microstructure.

Scientists from the University of Manchester, working in collaboration with¬†agrochemical company, Syngenta, have used the capabilities at STFC’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source to study how surfactants, a key component in pesticide formulations, interact with the leaf surface to get into the plant and take effect.

LettUs Grow™ design irrigation and control technology for vertical farms. By collaborating with DISCnet (Data Intensive Science Centre in the South East Physics Network Рan STFC Centre for Doctoral Training) and Data Javelin they were able to better investigate the application of machine learning in the indoor farming sector. Since connecting through SFTC, they’ve been working together to increase facility efficiency on indoor farms and improve crop yields.

Other agri-food projects that have leveraged the advanced experimental and computational tools available through STFC’s facilities include:

Food and drink:

  • Investigating the microstructures of food snacks
  • Optimising supply chains to reduce food waste
  • Portable measurement of fruit juice quality
  • Heavy metal detection and distribution in rice
  • Non-destructive testing to determine fruit quality


  • Continuous ammonia monitoring for agriculture
  • Using drones to gather multispectral image data to measure crop quality
  • Remote sensing of soil water content
  • Automated fruit ripeness measurements
  • Forecasting agricultural crop yields

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Bridging for Innovators Food Roadshow, 14 November 2018

On Wednesday 14 November STFC will be hosting a roadshow event at Harper Adams University in Newport, Shropshire to highlight how they can help address current challenges in the agriculture, food and drink sectors.

This event offers agri-food companies who need to overcome problems that restrict their productivity and competitiveness, an opportunity to discuss their issues with world leading experts and learn how to access some of the ¬£8 million in funding available through STFC’s Bridging for Innovators (B4I) programme.

B4I gives industries access to unique laboratories and the ability to engage with world class researchers, allowing them to develop projects that address specific challenges and help participants make a step-change to their business.  Full details of scope, eligibility and the B4I application process are available here.

Delegates will be able to discuss their challenges with expert scientists, gain a better understanding of how to access STFC’s leading edge research infrastructure, hear about government strategies, Grand Challenges and funding opportunities for the agri-food industries and will be able to network with other relevant companies.¬† A facility tour of Harper Adams University, including the Dairy Crest Innovation Centre, poultry and crop and environment research centres is also being offered to delegates.

The current programme includes:

OpenSimon Baty, Knowledge Transfer Manager – Agri-Food, KTN

Introduction to the Science and Technologies Research Council (STFC)Professor Ric Allott, Director of Business Development, STFC

STFC industrial case studies in agriculture, food and drink:

*  Harry Baraza, Relationship Development Director, LGC

*  Christopher Nankervis, CTO & Founder, Weather Logistics Ltd

STFC capabilities relevant to agriculture, food and drink – a series of short presentations by STFC Experts

Lunch and networking

Keynote Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: Transforming Food Production РAndy Cureton, Interim Co-Director, ISCF Transforming Food Production at UK Research and Innovation

Integrating STFC expertise for achieving food supply chain resilienceProfessor Simon Pearson, Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology (LIAT), University of Lincoln and Dr Sonal Choudhary, Lecturer in Sustainable Management at Sheffield University Management School

Embracing complexityProfessor John W. Crawford, Integrated Solutions Lab Flagship Leader, Rothamsted Research

STFC Food Network+ (SFN)Professor Sarah Bridle, University of Manchester and STFC Food Network+

Company pitches on their technical challenges – session 1

Bridging for Innovators (B4I) Programme – how to gain free access to STFC expertise and equipment РDr Ling Xu, Innovations Programme Manager, STFC


Company pitches on their technical challenges – session 2

Poster presentations and networking

One-to-one meetings with STFC experts

Tours of Harper Adams University’s science and research facilities


To book your place at this unique event please click here.

Further information on how agri-food companies can work with STFC

STFC facilities case studies on agriculture, food and drink:

Understanding the microstructure of ice cream (Unilever)

Neutrons could reveal how pesticides protect crops (Syngenta)

Using Raman spectroscopy to test the quality of coconut cream (Coconut Collaboration Ltd)

Combating foot and mouth (The Pirbright Institute)

Elemental mapping of wheat grain (Rothamsted Research)

Killing microbes, not the taste (Anacail)

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