Members of the Agri-TechE team recently attended the ‘Innovate UK: In the East of England’ event hosted at the John Innes Centre. The purpose of the event was to show the breadth of funding opportunities available through Innovate UK and its partners, as well as providing case studies of businesses who have benefitted from funding.
We were there to showcase agriculture to individuals from other sectors to highlight the opportunities there may be within the industry. Throughout the day we had a number of conversations with SME who wanted to find out more about how their business could be beneficial in the agricultural space.
Couldn’t make it? Don’t worry, read on to find out who can offer funding.
UKRI Innovate UK
UKRI Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy – delivering productivity, new jobs and exports and keeping the UK globally competitive in the race for future prosperity.
The emphasis on the role of Research and Development (R&D) within the East of England area was highlighted in the opening session of the day. According to Ian Meikle, Director of Clean Growth and Infrastructure at Innovate UK, it is what keeps the economy relevant and thriving and acts as a driver to creativity and innovation. Due to our geographical location he highlighted how we should be exploiting our capabilities in energy and agri-food.
Between 2015 and 2019, £458 million worth of grants were awarded to 758 companies and organisations for 1,535 projects; of those winners, 593 were Small & Medium-sized Enterprises. As part of the recent Transforming Food Production funding call, 9 Agri-TechE members received funding for projects. Find out more about who they are and what they have received funding for.
One option for non-specific funding is Smart Funding. This type of funding is targeted at collaborative projects aiming to deliver ambitious or disruptive R&D innovations that can make a significant impact on the UK economy.
Case Study: Equipmake design, prototype and built state-of-the-art Electric Driverain Solutions and have benefitted from Innovate UK Grants. Their advice for those applying for a grant was: collaboration is key but be selective about who you choose to work with, plan ahead, keep abreast of changes in funding rules, always read the guidance thoroughly, don’t underestimate the management overheads which come with the reporting and always ask Innovate UK for help.
The UKRI Innovate UK Family and Partners
Enterprise Europe Network support growing businesses helping them to scale and internationalise by offering mentoring advice and guidance particularly around global collaboration. They can also offer the Innovate Succeed programme which will enable businesses to scale, with guidance and support provided for 6-9 days over a 6 month period. This can be targeted at securing funding, marketing, IP and scaling.
In addition, they also offer Innovation Loans to support later stage R&D to upscale a product. These offer loans are available to single applicants and cover 100% of the funding required.
Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) assists with finding markets, obtaining expertise and locating & securing access to funding and finance, to support R&D within businesses.
For KTN information specific to agriculture have a look at their dedicated Agri-Food page.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships involve academics being employed by private businesses that are looking at a specific R&D or innovation project. The benefits of this are many; for the academic it provides useful exposure to a commercial environment and can help kick-start their career. For the business, they receive support and mentoring through the entire process from the academic institution, as well as financial support to help cover the salary & associated costs of the academic. More importantly, they are getting access to technical expertise and knowledge which might otherwise be difficult and or very expensive to come by.
Catapult Network The Catapults are a network of world-leading technology centres designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in areas of strength and drive innovation to promote productivity and economic growth. Their role is also to bridge the gap between industry and government.
Satellite Catapult Applications are members of Agri-TechE – visit their member page to find out more about them. Also read about HayBeeSee’s work which is being supported by the Satellite Applications Catapult network.
New Anglia Growth Hub which provides free support for growing businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk. It describes itself as a ‘one stop shop’ for all types of business support, for Norfolk and Suffolk businesses.
Other possible sources of funding and support for business growth
UEA’s Low Carbon Innovation Fund
The UEA’s Low Carbon Innovation Fund covers a range of sectors but has a specific focus on investing in companies that are reducing greenhouse gases. The funds that are channelled have to be matched by private investors or other funding streams. They also have the Investment Readiness programme, which provides training, insight and mentoring for businesses that are in the process of looking to apply for investment, in order to help increase their chances of actually securing that investment.
Angel Investors (Private Investment)
An ‘Angel investor’ shared his experiences at the event. He highlighted that as a personal investor he can be selective about the businesses he supports as ultimately only around 10% will succeed and give any return. Two traits he looks for in pitches are: absolute passion from the entrepreneur to see the business succeed and an exit plan to ensure that the investor is simply not supporting a lifestyle and the investor will get their money back.
We have a number of private investors and investment groups in the network; please get in touch if you are interested in this kind of finance.
Why you should claim your R&D tax credits and Patent Box
A representative from GovGrant talked about the considerable benefits that UK businesses can derive from R&D tax credits and the Patent Box. Up to 33% can be claimed back through R&D tax credits with the average claim in the UK being around £54K. This tax policy is open to all businesses who engage in R&D, whether it’s in developing new products, or just simply looking at better ways of managing internal processes. The Patent Box is another existing mechanism whereby companies can reduce their tax liability on the profits of on sales of patented products.
How can Agri-TechE help with funding?
Whilst we don’t offer funding ourselves, if you are considering applying for funding we can help you:
- Take a look at out ‘Funding Latest’ page which includes current funding calls relevant to the agri-tech sector
- Speak to us about collaborations; we might be able to connect you with other businesses or institutions looking to partner for projects
- Need help writing your proposal? We have members who offer support services for funding proposals that we can put you in touch with
- Want to hear first hand from businesses who have secured funding? We have companies within the membership who have been successful in winning competitions who could share their experience with you.