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DEFRA has launched the new Farming Innovation Programme with an initial £17.5m to boost the future of farming. The aim is to transform productivity and enhance environmental sustainability in England’s agricultural and horticultural sectors. DEFRA will support ambitious projects that will also help drive these sectors towards net zero.

The first fund to open is the ‘Industry-led R&D Partnerships Fund’ for farmers, growers, foresters and businesses. Bids for funding can be to develop new technologies and practices to overcome challenges and exploit new opportunities in the sector. These range from use of artificial intelligence and low-emission machineries to optimising the production process and development of climate-resilient crops.

Defra will launch the ‘Farming Futures R&D Fund’, for strategic projects aimed at tackling climate change by reducing the environmental impact of farming. The third of the funds, called ‘Projects to Accelerate Adoption Fund’, will launch later in 2022 to support farmer-led projects to trial the viability of new innovations on farm.

Competition details

From October 2021:

  • Research Starter Projects – To help farmers and growers with bold, ambitious early-stage ideas develop them further and build a collaborative team. This is for those who haven’t previously received Innovate UK funding. Deadline 24 November 2021.
  • Feasibility Projects – To test the feasibility of early-stage solutions and to inform decisions on subsequent larger scale R&D projects. Deadline 1 December 2021.
  • Small R&D Partnership Projects – To carry out R&D for innovative solutions that have the potential to substantially improve overall productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector. Deadline 1 December 2021.

From Spring 2022:

  • Large R&D Partnership Projects – Launching early 2022, this will provide funding for larger-scale R&D and demonstration of solutions that have the potential to substantially improve overall productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector
  • each competition within the R&D Partnership Fund will offer different scales of funding. Project teams will be able to apply for grants towards the total project costs, while providing some of their own match funding.
  • the competitions will be open to applications for 5-6 weeks, with different closing dates for each competition.
  • video recordings of applicant briefing events are available on the competition pages.

More information on the new competitions and how to get involved can be found on the UKRI website

Further information on Defra’s new funds is available at the Future Farming Blog and at the dedicated UKRI webpage.

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