Increasingly, innovation - across all sectors, is being driven by common factors, including:
- rapidly growing global population
- ageing demographic
- increasing urbanisation
- burden of diseases
These factors are accelerating the demand for:
- more efficiently produced food
- healthier and traceable food
- improved healthcare with better outcomes for patients and for the health system
This demand can only be addressed through the development of ever more innovative solutions.
Those common drivers have led us to realign the way we support companies looking to develop innovative solutions in the agritech and health and care sectors.
Agritech and Health sectors under one umbrella
There’s an obvious synergy in the work companies do to develop new, innovative ways of using bioscience and the way those new approaches are then used across the agriculture, food and health industries, so we’ve brought them under the same support umbrella – our Health and Life Sciences sector team.
We’re also aligning the strategies of the 4 agritech centres and 3 catapults – Cell and Gene Therapy, Precision Medicine and Medicines Discovery Catapults - in the sector and working to get a better understanding of the types of companies clustered around them. By continuing our close relationship with these partners, we can better tailor our future support programmes, helping those businesses to develop and scale up more successfully.
The coming year
1. Focus on bioscience
Over the coming 12 months or so, we’ll be developing our focus on exploiting the outputs of bioscience and biomedical research, which will increasingly underpin many new health and agri-food products and services across the bio-economy.
In part, we’ll be doing this by developing the portfolio of projects we’ve funded in the sector over the past 9 years, by assessing which of these company-led projects are ready for investor follow-on funding.
We’ve funded these projects to the tune of £360m so far and our activities this year will focus on helping firms prove their market readiness so we can help them grow - by introducing them to investors and other opportunities such as Horizon 2020 funding.
2. Simplified funding calls
We’ll also have a number of specific funding calls, challenging companies to develop innovative solutions in:
- Precision medicine - further developing bespoke approaches amongst therapeutic, diagnostics, algorithm and data companies.
- Advanced therapies (cell, gene and other therapies)
- Improving agriculture productivity - through, for example, new breeding technologies, improved pest, weeds and pathogen control and the increased uptake of robotics and autonomous systems, satellites, sensors and photonics.
- Enhancing food quality - developing high-value, healthy, nutritious foods by supporting appropriate reformulation of food and drink products ,bio-fortification and developing new proteins
Pulling it all together
We will carefully align the strategies and activities of the 4 agritech centres and 3 medicines-focussed catapult centres, and the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre – part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, to achieve efficiencies and allow for easier adoption of new innovations across the entire biosciences sector.
There are already a few hundred agri-food companies clustered around this family of agritech centres. We will work with these industry groups to:
- identify opportunities
- connect players together
- identify funding (particularly EU Horizon 2020 funding)
- signpost investors
- support the rollout of technology on farms
- help unlock overseas markets
There are exciting times ahead.
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