To help de-mystify the complex public sector agri-tech finance landscape we invited the leading funders to come to the first Pollinator of the year and give us their insights into funding available for business growth, R&D and academic-industry collaborations.
What was clear from the five speakers, who represented BBSRC, Innovate UK, the Eastern Enterprise Network, ADAPT Group and the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative was that public money is available, but it’s important to understand the eligibility criteria from the outset. Some funding streams are aimed at SMEs (“Small and Medium Enterprises”) – which is defined by the EU and the UK as having fewer than 250 employees and turning over less than €50M a year.
Know this before you consider applying!
However other grants are open to larger businesses looking to undertake R&D, and in the case of BBSRC, this is contingent on having an academic partner.
While Innovate UK is committed to funding R&D, BBSRC can support academic research, including projects in partnership with industry.
The European Commission remains a pot of huge opportunity but potentially challenging to access. With literally dozens of instruments open to SMEs, the sage advice was not to consider leading an EU proposal until you have been a partner in one.
For SMEs based across most parts of the east of England, the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative is a unique opportunity for business growth and R&D, and some great case studies are emerging from the funded projects.
Finally, the Agri-Innovation Venture Capital Fund (managed by ADAPT at the University of East Anglia), has funds invested by the Tsukuba Technology Seed Company that are available for investment into agri-tech businesses. Innovation support for agri-businesses is also available via the Incrops initiative.
So in conclusion….
Top Ten Tips from the “Focus on Funding” Pollinator:
1. There are a number of UK funding streams available to agri-tech businesses
2. Money is available for a range of agri-tech business activities, from early stage feasibility studies, to large scale industrial research…..but…..
3. …check your eligibility. Some schemes target SMEs only, while others welcome applications from larger businesses.
4. You will need to have a company registered in the UK to be eligible for many of the schemes. If you are a wholly-owned subsidiary of a parent based overseas, you need to check the rules.
5. Some public funds can’t support primary agricultural production as some parts of the sector may already be publicly supported through subsidies. Seek advice on this!
6. Funding instruments exist to help businesses (regardless of size) interact with the research base. These start at £5k, and go up to £multiM projects
7. Most grant schemes won’t give you all the money to fund your project. You need to be able to match the funding from other sources – the proportion you have to contribute varies depending on the scheme. Some will allow “in-kind” contributions while others require cash.
8. Embrace EU funding cautiously if it’s your first time, but don’t rule it out.
9. There is a limit to the amount of public funding businesses can receive. Don’t fall foul of State Aid Rules, which are in place to prevent anti-competitiveness
10. And finally, agri-tech businesses based in the east of England can access additional funding opportunities not available anywhere else in the UK!
If you would like copies of the speakers’ slides from the Pollinator, please contact us
You can read more about the discussions held at the Pollinator in the full report, which is available free to members on our Publications page.