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Defra Farming Innovation Investor Partnership

Fund Name

Defra Farming Innovation Investor Partnership

Project Length

18 months

Project Value




UK registered SMEs can apply for a share of up to £5 million to develop innovative farming solutions. This must align with private investment from selected investor partners.

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Fund details

The aim of this competition is to:

  • develop ambitious late-stage innovative solutions, technologies, systems or approaches that will make significant steps towards improving productivity, increasing sustainability and resilience, and helping the
  • agriculture sector move towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050
  • support late-stage experimental development projects being close to market and ultimately adoption by farmers

Your proposal must:

  • demonstrate your ambition to finalise a late-stage innovation
  • show your potential to grow and scale your business through successful negotiation of investment from a lead investor associated with the competition
  • provide a coherent project plan which integrates into your business strategy

Your solutions must significantly improve farm focused:

  • productivity
  • sustainability and the environmental impact
  • progression towards net zero emissions
  • resilience

Your project must be able to demonstrate how the project will benefit farmers, growers or foresters in England.

Specific themes 

Your project must address a significant industry challenge or opportunity in at least one of the industry subsectors below:

  • livestock
  • plants
  • novel food production systems
  • bioeconomy and agroforestry

Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • are not carried out by single SMEs
  • are collaborative research and development (R&D) projects
  • are not part of a company’s growth plan
  • are unable to prove there is potential for return on investment and growth
  • do not benefit farmers, growers or foresters in England
  • are equine specific
  • involve wild-caught fisheries
  • involve aquaculture for fish production or human consumption
  • involve cellular or acellular production systems, fermentation systems for bacteria, yeast or fungi for human consumption
  • are for the production of crops or plants for medicinal or pharmaceutical use


Your project must:

  • have total costs between £750,000 and £3 million
  • start by 1 April 2024
  • last 18 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be able to demonstrate how it will benefit farmers, growers or foresters in England

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK-registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • be prepared to negotiate heads of terms for an aligned private investment

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. A business can only lead on one application in this competition. You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.


The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has allocated up to £5 million, working in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Transforming Food Production Challenge, to fund innovation projects in this competition. This competition is delivered by Innovate UK and funding will be in the form of a grant.

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation

Aligned private investment

You must agree the private investment through a lead investor and reach heads of terms by 17 January 2024.

The aligned private investment:

  • must provide you with suitable capital at least twice the amount of the grant requested to complete your project and support company growth and scale ambitions
  • can be directed for use in your company, whereas the grant is to support the project only
  • can be used to fund additional costs typically ineligible for support by Innovate UK
  • must be provided under commercial terms negotiated with the lead investor and not Innovate UK

The investment can be in the form of either a direct equity investment or a convertible loan. It must come from a lead investor, from the pool of investors associated with this programme. The lead investor may decide to syndicate with other investors from within or outside of the pool.

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