SMEs transforming food production: series A investor partnership

UK registered SMEs that are transforming food production towards net zero can apply for a share of up to £5 million in grant support. This must align with a series A investment.

Opportunity Details


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The total eligible project costs you submit must be between £1 million and £3 million for experimental development. Up to 45% of costs can be covered by ISCF funding depending on business size.


Innovate UK

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This competition will support UK registered micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The SMEs must be aspiring to transform food production through experimental development projects that are closer to market.

Your UK registered SME will receive:

  • grant funding
  • aligned investment funding from the programme’s pool of lead investors

The grant funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Transforming Food Production challenge.

You can apply for this competition before you speak to an investor. You can read the list of lead investors or find out more about how we chose the investors.

As well as investment, the lead investors in the pool can provide you with commercial acumen, such as:

  • leadership
  • market access
  • skills
  • resources

After you apply, to be offered grant funding your project must have:

  • been assessed as eligible for grant funding
  • been successful in demonstrating how your project meets the overall aims of the ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge
  • secured aligned investment with a lead investor from the pool

We are seeking SMEs with high growth potential that aspire to transform food production towards net zero emissions by 2040. To secure grant funding you must also secure investment of at least twice the amount of grant through one of the lead investors associated with this programme.

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £1 million and £3 million
  • start by 1 October 2021
  • end by 31 March 2023
  • last 18 months

This competition is open to single applicants only.

To apply, your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be prepared to negotiate head of terms for an aligned series A investment

You must develop precision technologies and data driven solutions that make a significant step towards realising net zero food production systems by 2040.

Your proposal must demonstrate the ambition to finalise a late stage innovation with the potential to grow and scale your business through successful negotiation of investment from a lead investor associated with the competition. You must provide a coherent project plan which integrates into your business strategy.

You must demonstrate how your project meets the overall aims of the ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge, which are to:

  • help food production systems achieve net zero emissions by 2040
  • help produce food in ways that are more efficient, resilient and sustainable
  • speed up the development and use of integrated precision approaches to improve productivity in agricultural systems

We are looking to fund a variety of technologies and markets.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following:

  • the development of precision solutions and systems that will make a significant step towards net zero emissions for food production
  • improving productivity of the agricultural sector
  • stimulating the establishment of novel high value production systems
  • developing export opportunities

Click here to watch a recording of our briefing to find out more about the competition.

The deadline is 13th January 2021. After this date, projects that meet the quality threshold of 70% will be invited to attend the investor readiness bootcamp which enables you to meet the investors from our pool.

We expect these to be held mostly online between 22 February and 19 March 2021. Attendance is voluntary and not a requirement to be eligible for funding but we encourage you to participate. It will prepare you for investor negotiations.

If you would like more detail on this competition and how the investor partnership will work, contact our agrifood team.


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