The first of its kind in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, a new fund has been established as part of a £10m project to support research, development and innovation in Agri-tech related technologies. Open to small and medium-sized companies already in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly or looking to set up in the region, this is an opportunity to develop and apply new technologies to improve efficiency, profitability and resilience in the agri-food sector and by doing so expand existing or develop new business activity. This new fund provides the opportunity for smaller businesses to try something new which they may not have been able to do with their own funds.
The grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), match funded by Cornwall Council, is part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and reflects the varied needs of the region’s SMEs. The funding is available in three strands, from a £50,000 to £250,000 collaborative research fund for businesses looking to undertake research, development and innovation, to a voucher scheme for projects ranging from £2,500-£50,000 available to support areas such as consultancy costs, feasibility studies or for the commissioning of specialist research and a subsidised graduate placement programme with salary subsidies ranging from £1,500-£2,250. In addition, with match funding from Cornwall Council, the project will also create a dairy systems research platform, ‘Future Farm’, based at Duchy College’s Stoke Climsland campus. This new facility will be distinct from a standard dairy farm as its infrastructure will be designed to enable research and innovation; measuring and comparing different factors and technologies for a healthy, productive and profitable dairy farm.
Available to applicants from any sector, as long as the research supports growth, productivity or market development in agri-tech, the fund is delivered by five key partners: Duchy College’s Rural Business School, Rothamsted Research, University of Exeter, Plymouth University and the Cornwall Development Company.
This announcement is the start of a new wave of fund beneficiaries for ‘Agri-tech Cornwall’, a £10m wider initiative to create and develop a new sector for the Cornish economy, helping the United Kingdom become a world leader in agricultural technology and sustainability.
According to recent statistics, the global population is forecast to grow by 2.3 billion by 2050, meaning that food production will need to increase by between 60 and 70 percent to meet this demand, meaning that many traditional farming methods will need to adapt to become more efficient, more sustainable and more productive.
Cornwall already has a strong agricultural and engineering heritage, however the challenges facing this sector require new and improved ways to empower farms and their immediate supply chains. This fund enables SMEs to rise to the challenge, applying their technologies currently set up in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to a global network – enabling high growth business trade internationally and enhancing, protecting and sustaining Cornwall’s natural assets and the individuals and families that farm them, in turn benefitting food and farming businesses in England, UK, Europe and worldwide.
Robin Jackson, the programme’s director says: “Cornwall’s strong agricultural heritage and culture, combined with exceptional rural internet capabilities and R&D facilities, make it an ideal location for innovators and developers in tech-led agriculture. The launch of this new fund is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to embrace these resources and try something they may otherwise have shied away from, for fear of not seeing an immediate return. We look forward to working with applicants that will in turn support the growth, productivity and market development of Cornwall’s emerging agri-tech industry.”
Invest in Cornwall is part of Cornwall Council’s arm’s length economic development company, Cornwall Development Company, and is focused on encouraging inward investment into the region to deliver its economic vision and strategy.
Head of Inward Investment at Invest in Cornwall, Nicola Lloyd says: “Cornwall is one of the few regions in the UK to have secured significant funding for research, development and innovation in agri-tech. This announcement is a true reflection of the region’s booming agri-tech industry and of the direction we’re moving towards in being part of the wider picture and responding to the country’s imminent needs.”