Government funding creates opportunity for innovation in food and feed processing

John Deere’s Manager of Technology Innovation Strategy to explain at Agri-Tech East event how to work with funders.

Companies of all sizes can benefit from agri-tech funding; it is not just for start-ups. John Deere was named alongside Monsanto as the big two world leading platforms for agri-tech, in a recent industry report* it has tapped into public sector funding to gain this ranking. Dr Thomas Engel, Manager of Technology Innovation Strategy at John Deere, is set to discuss how collaborative research has underpinned its product development at the Agri-Tech East event “Finding the Funding – The Research and Business Guide to Smart Agri-Tech Finance” on 22 March at the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre.

With the recent news that as part of its Industrial Strategy the Government is to invest £90 million into a new “Transforming Food Production Challenge”, there is renewed interest in the agri-food sector.

Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, explains:

There is huge potential to digitise the agri-food value chain. Many of the food processing companies around King’s Lynn could benefit from innovation to improve competitive advantage, particularly in areas such as machine learning to improve performance of equipment and insights in nutrition to provide added value to products. The government is showing that there is money available for this.

Collaborative research and development helps to de-risk new product development and to incorporate end-user requirements from the outset. John Deere has established over 50 partnerships worldwide to broaden its own platform, MyJohnDeere and has accessed public sector funding to support its network.

Dr Engel comments:

Our partnerships usually work on a project-by-project basis. In Europe, there are opportunities to get public funding from the EU or national governments, so we can apply for grants which are 100% funded for universities and 50% match funded with an investment by us or another industry player. In some areas, we ask universities to do specific research projects for us, and these might be confidential projects.

We also work with a lot of students, for example in our European Tech Innovation Center where I am located. We have about 30 interns at one time working for three to six months, or we have university students do their theses. We can also use them as a think-tank in capstone projects to come up with totally new ideas. They’re a younger generation so see the world with different eyes.

Other speakers will include: Martin Lutman, Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative; Andrew McLay of Innovate UK; Andy Cureton, BBSRC and Alan Plom, Douglas Bomford Trust.

“Finding the Funding – The Research and Business Guide to Smart Agri-Tech Finance”, an Agri-Tech East workshop in partnership with SMART-AKIS, will take place at the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre, Innovation Drive, King’s Lynn, PE30 5BY on 22 March 2018.

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