The planned agri-informatics and sustainability metrics innovation centre, has been a hot topic this month in the agri-tech community.
At a briefing day held at DEFRA this month, representatives from big agri-business, research institutions, SMEs and intermediary research technology organisations were all eager to hear more about the government’s plans for the first of the new centres.
As part of the national strategy published last year UK government committed £160m funding to support the creation of a number of new Agri-Tech innovation centres as well as the Agri-Tech Catalyst fund,
As yet there has been no steer as to the location, business model, or partnerships, so it is clear the government is looking to the community to build the successful consortium to bid to host and run the new centre.
Single centre, or a network of partners distributed across the UK? How will the business model work? How committed can we expect large agri-business to be to the new centre? These were all questions being asked by delegates …… to which we are being encouraged to find our own answers.
While some find this lack of direction and steer frustrating, it seems sensible for a government not to be overly- prescriptive during this call for Expressions Of Interest. Ruling out any partner, location or business model at this stage is unwise, especially when there are a number of options and players with something to contribute.
What are the odds?
What was clear are the levels of concern about of throwing one’s hat into the ring with one consortium, only to find they are unsuccessful and to then be “left out in the cold” with the successful bidder who has already built their network . Or worse, being somehow “marked” by the funding agencies as having backed the wrong horse. And how does it look if you hedge your bets by being a partner on more than one bid?
In my experience, government doesn’t worry about such matters. What they want to see is the best partners working together to deliver a successful outcome. There is no “black list” of partners who allied themselves to unsuccessful consortia – quite the reverse – those in an unsuccessful consortium are encouraged to form allegiances with the successful one. Any perception of exclusivity in a consortium will not come from Government, which seeks to build, not fragment this complex industry.
Backing a winner?
In Agri-Tech East we are talking with a number of partners who are keen to be part of the new centre. With key players such as NIAB, The Genome Analysis Centre and even some software companies keen to investigate the potential in agri-tech, our cluster has much to offer a new centre and there is a lot of activity to be a major player in the new centre.
The next deadline is June 18th to submit expressions of interest, so watch this space.