The UK Agri-Tech Centres’ Accelerating Innovation Conference showcased the value of agri-tech innovation, research and development to the agri-industries and wider UK economy, supporting the Government’s aspiration for the UK to be a Science and Technology Superpower.
A key highlight of the conference was the Minister of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman MP’s reconfirmation of the government’s commitment to the agri-industries and recognition of the pivotal role that agri-tech innovation has to play in UK economic growth.
During his speech, the Minister said:
“The merger of three Agri-Tech Centres is about enabling long-term stability and security for the sector. We want to develop UK expertise, deliver support for fast growing companies, and attract global investment, including the global funds that we know want to invest in UK agri-tech.
“The combined Centres, which we have invited to put forward a proposal to become a new Agri-Tech Catapult, will be an anchor for that investment and enable all the different areas within the sector, from horticulture to husbandry and arable, to draw on ground-breaking research that’s coming through from engineering- biology and AI, across the Catapult network and beyond, in the UK and globally.”
The merger of the Centres will provide a major boost to agri-tech innovation in a sector estimated to be worth £13bn to the UK economy by 2027. Central to this is the proposal to establish an Agri-Tech Catapult, which has the support of Innovate UK.
Speaking after the conference, CEO of Innovate UK, Indro Mukerjee said:
“The Agri-Tech ecosystem is fundamental to our economy; we now have an exciting opportunity to accelerate our ability to meet these global challenges and opportunities. We have come a long way towards delivering on our ambitions for this critical sector. The conference today gave a new depth to the value of the merger of the three Centres. Meeting their expert teams and hearing direct from the businesses and the agri-tech community they support, really brought alive what is possible and why now.”
In developing the plan to become a Catapult, the new organisation will facilitate stronger cross-sectoral working and systems-wide approaches to agri-sector expansion opportunities and sector challenges. It will also enable the sharing of knowledge and learnings across the whole agri-tech ecosystem and provide access to business support in order to boost the development and adoption of agri-tech solutions.
The proposed Catapult will build on the successes of the Centres’ work over the past seven years. During this time, the Agri-Tech Centres have provided an ecosystem for agri-tech to be researched, developed and tested in response to some of the most critical global R&D priorities, working on 350 collaborative R&D projects involving over 500 businesses – from start-ups to global corporates – and delivering a value of £100m to the sector.
Speakers from the three merging Agri-Tech Centres – Agri-EPI Centre, CHAP and CIEL – outlined how plans to become a single organisation are developing at pace, detailing how the merger will deliver huge benefits to the agri-industries sector, and to the wider UK economy. By combining the Centres’ UK-wide capabilities, with their world-class research facilities, investment and innovation expertise and extensive networks, the new business will be a hub for agri-tech innovators to thrive. It will also provide advice and coordination to access critical funding and wider Innovate UK programmes, such as Horizon Europe and the Farming Innovation Programme.
Fraser Black, CEO CHAP, said:
“Our conference has showcased the huge value agri-tech innovation delivers for the UK agri-industries. We’re delighted to have the support of the Minister of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman MP, flying the flag for the significance of agri-tech R&D and innovation in growing the wider UK economy.
“We are excited to have shared our merger plans with current and future partners. By combining to form a single business, we will boost UK agri-tech and accelerate the development and commercial adoption of proven, viable and sustainable solutions. This will help the agri-industries – across arable, livestock, horticulture, forestry and aquaculture – meet the challenges of securing humanity’s necessities while protecting people, the planet and its resources.”