New funding and support for agritech innovators and startups worth £10 million ($13 million) are available for businesses that can create sustainable employment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, on the southwestern tip of the UK.
As England’s only officially designated ‘Less Developed Region,’ the area has received £7.5m in grant support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), to which a range of local and national development partners have added £2.5m in match-funding and the provision of in-kind services and facilities. The aim of the funding and support is to help agritech SMEs develop and apply new technologies to improve the efficiency, profitability, and resilience of the local agri-food sector.
Funding is available in three strands: £50,000 to £250,000 in collaborative research finance for businesses looking to undertake research, development, and innovation; a voucher scheme for projects ranging from £2,500-£50,000, made available to support costs such as consultancy fees, feasibility studies or for the commissioning of specialist research; and a subsidized graduate placement program with salary subsidies ranging from £1,500-£2,250.
In addition to ERDF, funding partners include Cornwall Council, the universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Rothamsted Research, Cornwall Development Company and the county’s specialist rural business school, Duchy College.
Launched under the fund brand ‘Agri-tech Cornwall,’ the £10m initiative is designed to “create and develop a new sector for the Cornish economy, helping the UK become a world leader in agricultural technology and sustainability.”
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“Cornwall has a strong agricultural and engineering heritage with one-third of the county’s economy being based on agriculture,” Robin Jackson, the program’s director told AgFunderNews. “Combined with our exceptional rural internet capabilities and R&D facilities, this makes Cornwall an ideal location for innovators and developers in tech-led agriculture.
“As such, 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.”
How accessible will this new funding be to startups and innovators, especially those not currently located in Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly? Jackson said that the new fund is “open to everyone” and that “everything is on the table” regarding ideas and proposals.
“Normal startup rules, such as market demand and ability to take a project through to commercialisation will obviously apply, as they would with any venture capitalist,” he said.
“As for a developer’s location, our requirement is that jobs must be created in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We will also want those to be long-term jobs in the region.”
Jackson also said that a number of applications for funding have already been received under the program, with the first tranche of approvals due to be announced in the autumn, or certainly before the end of this year.
To apply for funding and for more information, click here.
The ERDF grant is part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020, a measure under which Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are due to receive a total of €603.7m of ERDF and Europe Social Fund support over the six-year period, plus £9.4m from European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, all directly allocated through the England Growth Programme.
This level of support was triggered by the ‘Less Developed Region’ status of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. In 2011, for example, the region’s Gross value added (GVA) was £13,848 per person against the UK average of £20,873. Similarly, in 2009, innovation and R&D spending in the region was just 0.19% of GDP compared with a UK spend of 1.85%.