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Agri-tech catalyst round 10: Agriculture and food systems


UK-registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £2.5million to work on agri-tech and food chain innovations in Africa.

Up to £2.5 million of funding is available from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) across three strands. This is for projects working on agri-tech and food chain innovations with partners in eligible African countries.

The aim of this competition is to increase the pace of innovation in the development of agricultural and food systems in Africa. Your project must result in more use of innovations by farmers and food systems organisations, such as manufacturers, processors, retailers, distributors and wholesalers.

Innovate UK are running three strands to this competition at the same time:

  1. Early stage feasibility studies.
  2. Mid stage industrial research.
  3. Late stage experimental development.

It is your responsibility to make sure you are applying for the correct strand.

Open Date:


Close Date:


There are many opportunities and challenges for food systems, as described by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities, research categories and different strands of the competition.

Your proposal must show the potential to have a positive impact on poverty through the uptake of agricultural and food systems technology and innovation.

You can choose from one or more of the following areas:

  • Primary crop and livestock production, including aquaculture
  • Non-food uses of crops, excluding ornamentals
  • Challenges in food processing, distribution or storage, and value addition (such as through a change in the physical state or form of the product)
  • Improving the availability and accessibility of safe, healthy and nutritious foods

Your project’s innovations must:

  • Be sustainable in the context of environmental challenges such as climate change and resource scarcity
  • Minimise negative effects such as pollution, food loss and waste
  • Promote safe, healthy and nutritious diets

Your project and its outcomes must fit within the Official Development Assistance (ODA) criteria.

Your application must demonstrate how the primary benefit from your project will be a contribution to international development outcomes, specifically:

  • Enhanced food and nutrition security and
  • Welfare of the poor in urban and rural areas in developing countries

Activities carried out in the UK must clearly deliver impact in an eligible African country. Any benefits to the UK must be secondary in nature and result from delivering the primary benefit. Your proposal must clearly demonstrate the ways it will have an impact in the country.

If your project will support crop breeding it must have clear potential for impact at scale, in more than one eligible African country.

Gender analysis and data disaggregation

Men and women experience poverty differently and face different obstacles to moving out of poverty. A significant gender gap in agriculture means women have unequal access to and control over productive assets and income. This is despite contributing a significant share of agricultural labour.

If your project is not sensitive to how this affects agricultural productivity, marketing and processing, the impact will be limited and potentially exacerbate gender inequalities. You should not assume that the household is a unit in which everything is pooled and shared and in which one person makes decisions on behalf of all household members.

Your proposal should recognise that to promote gender equality and empower girls and women is not only a goal in its own right. It is often a means to improving agricultural productivity or achieving food and nutrition security.

You must include an analysis of the gender factors affecting the innovation. For example, you may find it is inappropriate to refer to ‘farmers’ without indicating whether you are referring to male farmers, female farmers, or both. Consider whether you need to include expertise on gender and social analysis within your project.

You must separate data about other variables, where relevant, such as ethnicity, age, disability and spatial geography.

Animal welfare

You must make sure that all your proposed research, both in the UK and internationally, complies with the principles of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) and other UK funders’ common guidance on Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research.

Innovate UK will not fund projects likely to directly compromise farm animal welfare outcomes. Projects likely to benefit animal welfare will be viewed favourably.

UK institutions should be aware of this extract from the guidance:

“When collaborating with other laboratories, or where animal facilities are provided by third parties, researchers and the local ethics committee in the UK should satisfy themselves that welfare standards consistent with the principles of UK legislation (e.g. the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986), and set out in this guidance, are applied and maintained. Where there are significant deviations, prior approval from the funding body should be sought and agreed.”

Examples of specific themes

Your project can focus on any area that improves the uptake of agricultural and food systems technology and innovation, for example:

  • Integrating smallholders into global and local supply chains
  • Increasing the value of production to smallholders
  • Control of crop pests, weeds and diseases
  • Meeting quality standards and improving productivity
  • Reducing food losses ‘post-farm gate’ and through the value chain
  • Addressing food safety issues through the value chain
  • New food technologies and data-driven food systems, including for urban areas
  • Addressing challenges in downstream food processing, distribution, or storage and value addition
  • Innovation that supports food systems to deliver nutritious, healthy and safe food

Your early-stage project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £100,000 and £500,000
  • Start by 1 April 2021
  • Last between 12 and 18 months

Your mid-stage project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £250,000 and £1million
  • Start by 1 April 2021
  • Last up to three years

Your late-stage project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £150,000 and £800,000
  • Start by 1 April 2021
  • Last up to 18 months

All projects must:

  • Be collaborative
  • Include a UK-registered lead applicant organisation (known in previous rounds as the ‘administrative lead’)
  • Include a technical lead, from any country
  • Include at least one business (from the UK or an eligible African country from the list below)
  • Include at least one partner from an eligible African country
  • Implement significant activity in the eligible African country

The roles of lead applicant and technical lead could be carried out by a single UK organisation.

Your project can also include other businesses, academic institutions, public sector organisations or research and technology organisations (RTOs). They must claim funding through this competition and be invited to join the application by the lead applicant.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) can join the consortium as non-grant claiming partners. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

Lead organisations

The lead applicant:

  • Will be responsible for completing the application
  • Will be the recipient of the award (referred to as ‘project manager’ in the Innovation Funding Service)
  • Will manage and be accountable for the project’s finances in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award
  • Must be a UK-registered business of any size, academic institution, charity, public sector organisation or research organisation
  • Must claim grant funding through this competition
  • Can partner in up to two other applications where they are neither the lead applicant nor the technical lead

The technical lead:

  • Will lead on the development of the scope, work packages within the project and other work from a technical perspective
  • Can be a UK registered business of any size, academic institution, charity, public sector organisation or research organisation, or a partner organisation from any country
  • Must claim grant funding through this competition and be invited to join the application by the lead applicant
  • Can also be the lead applicant if it is a UK registered organisation

Find out which definition your organisation falls into.

Eligible African countries

  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Congo (Brazzaville)
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia, The
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mozambique
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Multiple applications

Across the three competition strands:

  • Any one UK-registered organisation can be the lead applicant or technical lead on one application and collaborate in a further two applications
  • If a UK-registered business is not leading an application as lead applicant or technical lead, it can collaborate in up to three applications
  • If an academic institution or research and technology organisation (RTO) is not leading on any applications they can collaborate on any number of applications


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the world. Innovate UK would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs

Additional assurances

Funding for this competition comes from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

In view of the overseas nature of this funding, there are some additional assurance requirements:

  • Successful UK applicants must demonstrate they have proper and transparent arrangements for passing grant monies to African partners applying for funding, or grant funding will be withdrawn
  • Innovate UK will carry out initial due diligence and final audit checks on all non-UK partners
  • Innovate UK has the right to refuse funding to projects where the cost of due diligence and monitoring requirements outweigh the potential benefits of funding. This decision will be made as part of their risk-based considerations.

Up to £2.5million is available from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to fund innovation projects in the three strands of this competition.

If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For the early stage feasibility studies, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • Up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • Up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • Up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For the mid stage industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • Up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • Up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • Up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For the late stage experimental development projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • Up to 45% if you are a micro or small business
  • Up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • Up to 25% if you are a large business

Innovate UK use the EU definition of an SME to determine business size for both EU and international businesses.

The research organisations in your consortium undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Collaborative research and development’ of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Innovate UK are not funding:

  • Forestry or ornamentals
  • Wild-capture fisheries
  • Equine
  • Crops for energy production
  • Projects that support the tobacco industry

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.