Strengthening the resilience of the UK food system

This funding opportunity aims to improve the resilience of the UK food system to a variety of potentially cascading risks.

Opportunity Details


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The FEC (Full Economic Cost) of your project can be up to £1.75 million. BBSRC will fund 80% of the FEC, up to £1.4 million per project.



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The objectives of this funding opportunity are to support interdisciplinary research and innovation which will:

  • improve the resilience of the UK food system to cascading risks and systemic shocks
  • develop interventions to increase the resilience of the UK food system
  • inform policy and practice by working with stakeholders (government, business and the third sector) on interventions
  • increase interdisciplinary research capability and capacity in resilient UK food systems

The lead applicant must be based at a UK research organisation. Projects must be interdisciplinary, involving at least one other stakeholder organisation (government, business or third sector).

Phage researchers, SMEs and charities may be interested in this opportunity: while the scope is quite broad, it does include projects looking at food safety and pests and diseases. If you are a phage-related business looking to work on this opportunity, please contact Fran Hodges for help in finding a research organisation to collaborate with.

Agrifood businesses looking for research organisation partners should contact Innovate UK Business Connect’s Agrifood team.

  • The lead applicant must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for BBSRC funding, noting that any discipline can apply. That organisation will be responsible for submitting the grant application to UKRI.

    The project lead should normally hold a permanent post, but a fixed-term employee you may be eligible, provided that the host research organisation commits in writing to give all the support normal for a permanent employee and that there is no conflict of interest between obligations to UKRI and to any other organisation or employer. The term of employment of a fixed-term employee must extend beyond the duration of the proposed research project.

    For this funding opportunity, you may apply only once as a project lead but may appear as a project co-lead on other applications, preferably not more than two in total (one as project lead and one as project co-lead).

    There is no limit to the number of project co-leads per application, but it must be clear from the application what unique contribution each co-lead will make to the success of the proposed project. Project co-lead(s) must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for BBSRC funding.

    Applicants who are not based at eligible UK institutions are not eligible to apply for this opportunity but can be project partners. If you are a business looking for a project partner, contact the relevant team (Agrifood or Phage) at Innovate UK Business Connect for help.

  • The FEC (Full Economic Cost) of your project can be up to £1.75 million. BBSRC will fund 80% of the FEC, up to £1.4 million per project. The total funding available is £7.5m.

    The duration of this award is three years. Projects must start by 1 September 2024.

  • This funding opportunity aims to improve the resilience of the UK food system to a variety of potentially cascading risks, including but not limited to:

    • further pandemics
    • climate change and extreme weather
    • food safety
    • pests and diseases
    • trade and geopolitics
    • labour shortages
    • food price spikes
    • civil unrest

    An example of cascading risks in the food system might involve extreme weather abroad reducing imports of fruit and vegetables and an increase in energy prices reducing domestic production, both leading to empty supermarket shelves and higher food prices.

    Proposals must address two or more cascading risks and align with one or more of the following themes:

    Domestic production and trade

    • understanding the interplay, synergies, and trade-offs between natural shocks (for example, climate, biodiversity and extreme weather), socio-economic shocks (for example, civil unrest, market volatility, food price spikes, and reduced agricultural workforce) and geo-political shocks (for example, conflict, trade wars) in food systems
    • determining how diversification of UK agriculture, food products, suppliers and geographies might be operationalised, including potential barriers and challenges for growers, processors, and other stakeholders, wider impact on market power and concentration, and impact for consumers in terms of food availability, access, affordability and dietary health
    • increasing the resilience of crops and livestock produced in the UK to a variety of biotic threats (for example, invasive weeds, pests and diseases) and abiotic threats (for example, water insecurity, soil depletion, saltwater ingression) including those linked to climate change
    • determining the optimal balance of self-sufficiency versus imports for the UK food system. There is a need to understand how to increase sustainable UK food production at all levels from agricultural production through manufacturing and distribution to consumption. There is also a need to understand the ramifications of doing so, particularly with regard to food safety, food loss and waste, dietary preferences, and consumer nutrition and health. Consideration should also be given to the impacts of continuing to import foods from increasingly vulnerable sources (for example, areas with increasing pressure on local natural resources or exposure to extreme weather)
    • determining how trade policies might change to improve UK food system resilience, in the context of evolving geopolitics

    Critical infrastructure and resources

    • examining alternative models to just-in-time supply chains and determining how these might be operationalised to maintain affordability, accessibility, nutrition security, and food safety. For example, exploring the feasibility of increasing storage in the UK food system at a producer, supplier, or national level, without increasing nutrient and food losses, and ensuring food is still affordable
    • understanding how to increase the resilience of critical inputs to the UK food supply chain (for example, energy, water, CO2, labour, fertilisers, pesticides)
    • exploring the ability of different sectors and supply chains to re-pivot activities during a disruption (for example, alternative packaging, ingredient substitution, re-manufacturing and so on) while avoiding unintended consequences
  • Projects funded under this funding opportunity must:

    • take a food systems approach to increasing resilience, focusing on either domestic production and trade, critical infrastructure and resources or both and consider two or more cascading risks. In doing so, projects should consider the actors, activities and outcomes involved in the food system and how they are connected, alongside the key vulnerabilities, interdependencies, and pinch points.
    • be interdisciplinary. Examples of possible disciplines include, but are not limited to:
      • biological sciences
      • engineering and physical sciences
      • environmental sciences
      • economic and social sciences
      • arts and humanities
    • collaborate with at least one stakeholder organisation (government, business and the third sector)

    A key aim of this programme is to develop interventions in policy and practice that will increase the resilience of the UK food system to cascading risks. We particularly encourage interventions that will transform the current food system and lead to longer term resilience and nutritional security.


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