Britain’s imminent exit from the European Union presents an opportunity for Britain to become a powerhouse of global technical innovation, particularly in agriculture, George Freeman MP, chair of the UK Prime Minister’s Policy Board said Thursday.
Freeman, who AgFunderNews interviewed last year, led the creation of the UK government’s agri-tech strategy in 2013 when he was Minister for Life Sciences under David Cameron. The £160 million strategy provided funding for a range of different initiatives including the £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst Fund, the creation of Agrimetrics, a big data center for the sector, and other research centers across the country.
Speaking at the Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum at Rothamsted Research, the UK’s leading crop science facility on the outskirts of London, Freeman suggested that the UK agritech industry could have a moon-landing moment. Speaking to an audience of crop scientists, researchers, agritech startups and investors, Freeman was referring to when the US sent the first man to the moon in the 1960s. The landing assured the US position as the leading technology platform in the world, a position it still holds.
“Pick two or three milestones to work towards together, such as growing crops in the desert, and just hitting one of them will propel the industry forward,” he said, by attracting scientists, technologists, and experts to see the country as the leading hub of innovation in agriculture.
Freeman said the UK now had a chance to create a legislative framework which could pave the way for a new Victorian age of applied science with global impact. “We need global inward investment to our science base to drive out exports of food and technology,” he explained.
Freeman also indicated that the government’s new industrial strategy, due to be announced later this month, would include provisions for the sector.
“It is my passionate belief that this country needs to produce more [food] with less: globally we need to double food production on the same land area using half as much water. That’s a big challenge, but it’s perfectly do-able. This forum has exactly the expertise and cluster of talent we need to be convening.”
Later in the day, delegates heard from Christian Witt, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Jeni Tennison, CEO, Open Data Institute, UK, and representatives from the world’s leading agribusinesses among others.
Catch up on what else you missed later this week on AgFunderNews.