To put the UK at the forefront of a global revolution in farming is the bold ambition stated in the UK’s recent Industrial Strategy White Paper.
Growing the markets for innovative farming technologies and investing in advanced sustainable agriculture are clearly stated as Government objectives – offering some reassurance to those frustrated by the absence of agriculture and horticulture in the earlier Green Paper. The Paper also states that as the Government seeks to replace the Common Agricultural Policy, it will increase the incentives for investment in sustainable agriculture.
Recognising the importance of R&D is a central theme to the new Strategy, with funding increasing by an additional £7bn over the next 5 years, rising to £12.5bn by 2021/2022.
Investment to accelerate the movement of ideas into commercial adoption has also been pledged, with £735m committed to capture and exploit the value of innovation underway in Universities and research institutes. Increased funding for research and business to work together will be available under a new Knowledge Exchange Framework, and demonstrating “impact” of research will be an even higher priority for Universities and institutes.
Current system is broken
We argued in our report launched at the House of Lords earlier this year that the current system is broken and there is need for a new approach to food production and land management.
The White Paper paves the way for precision technologies, artificial intelligence and data analysis to become mainstream and part of that new approach. Soil-less production and use of alternative protein sources can also be part of the revolution to transform food production.
Statements in White Papers guide future activities, so the significance of this document shouldn’t be under-estimated. The summer has seen a huge amount of work done behind the scenes to champion the case for the sector. Providing evidence of the potential to increase productivity and deliver benefits to farmers, the environment and consumers whilst driving growth, jobs and exports has been a top priority.
This commitment is good to hear, but what will this look like in real terms?
The business case is currently being developed to put some meat on the bones of this strategic intent, describing how the money will be spent to ensure it delivers real value to farmers and growers.
The east of England fared well in the White Paper, with the recent Science and Innovation Audit revealing agri-tech and life sciences as priority themes in the region (and one of only three UK areas with agri-tech as a priority theme). This bodes well for success in a new competitive £115m Strength in Places Fund being launched to support areas to build on their science and innovation strengths. This fund will support collaborative programmes based on research and innovation excellence in places which can demonstrate a strong impact on local productivity and enhance collaboration between universities, research organisations and business. Times of challenge, but certainly times of opportunity. We look forward to seeing it in practice
Industrial Strategy White Paper is published by the Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and lays out Government strategy for investment, regulation and incentives to encourage research, development and adoption of new ways of working, knowledge exchange and adoption of new technologies. The strategy evolved from the Green Paper published earlier this year which invited consultation and this resulting White Paper sets out Government plans for future legislation and investment across a range of high growth potential sectors.