Digital Dairy Chain: Collaborative R&D and growth

Key Features

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £2 million for business focussed innovation in advanced and high value dairy production and manufacturing. This funding is from Digital Dairy Chain for Cumbria, South and West Scotland.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £2 million

Opens: 17th Apr 2023

Closes: 31st May 2023

! This scheme is now closed


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with Digital Dairy Chain for Cumbria, South and West Scotland, led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). They will invest up to £2 million in innovation projects.

These projects will stimulate an uplift in the region’s economy through inclusive and innovation led growth.


The aim of this competition is to support business focussed innovation in Cumbria, South and West Scotland. This is to support the transition to net zero and deliver improved productivity and sustainability in advanced and high value dairy production and manufacturing. Digital Dairy Chain want to encourage socially inclusive innovation for individuals to contribute and benefit from economic growth in Cumbria, South and West Scotland.

Innovate UK encourage projects that:

  • provide solutions that tackle new or emerging needs
  • demonstrate a realistic potential to support business growth, scale-up and job creation
  • deliver benefit to Cumbria, South and West Scotland, as well as further afield
  • enable academic researchers to collaborate with businesses to help further develop and translate research towards commercially relevant impact and wider societal outcomes
  • consider developing novel approaches to monitor the effectiveness of products

Your activities can solve challenges at any point in the dairy value chain, including dairy farming, milk transport and logistics, as well as the processing of milk and manufacture of other dairy products.

Innovate UK want to fund projects across a variety of technologies, geographic sub-regions, markets, technological maturities and theme.

Portfolio consideration will include:

  • sub-regional balance
  • place in the dairy value chain, notably activities directed at dairy farms, milk transport, milk processing and dairy product manufacture
  • research partner participation
  • participation of women and young people in projects

Specific Themes

Your project can focus on one or more of the following:

  • novel and high value products from dairy systems
  • decarbonising dairy production and manufacturing
  • waste minimisation and resource recirculation
  • reduced environmental impact and increased sustainability, for example biodiversity, soil, air and water quality
  • sensor development and digitisation to improve productivity, welfare of staff and animals, and product quality including nutritional characteristics
  • value addition in the dairy supply chain

This list is not intended to be exhaustive or limiting.


Any awards given to primary agricultural producers are subject to the green box exemption under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture. Please see further guidance on green box subsidies here WTO Guidance for support in Agriculture.

Applicants receiving this type of support must ensure that there is minimal to no distortion of trade and comply with the requirements of Annex 2 of the Agriculture Agreement.

Your project

Your project must:

  • have a total grant funding request between £50,000 and £350,000
  • start from 1 October 2023
  • end by 31 December 2025
  • last between 6 and 24 months
  • carry out at least 75% of its project work in Cumbria, South or West Scotland
  • intend to exploit the results in Cumbria, South or West Scotland

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be either a UK registered business of any size or a UK farming business of any size
  • be able to evidence that you are an established business, including sole traders and partnerships
  • have a UK bank account
  • be based in Cumbria, South or West Scotland or carry out significant economic activity in that region
  • collaborate with other UK registered organisations

Academic institutions and research and technology organisations (RTOs) cannot lead a project.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be a UK based farmer or one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.

Collaborations with Digital Dairy Chain research organisations are encouraged. These organisations are:

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of the West of Scotland
  • CENSIS, part of the University of Glasgow

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from outside Cumbria, South or West Scotland but you must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the specified region.

You must provide a detailed rationale and provide evidence of the potential UK subcontractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use a subcontractor from outside the regions specified.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

A business can only lead on two applications within this competition but can be included as a collaborator in a further two applications.

If a business is not leading any application it can collaborate on any number of applications within this competition.

Research organisations, charities, not for profit, public sector organisations and research and technology organisations (RTOs) can collaborate on any number of applications.

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.


Innovate UK are not funding projects that:

  • do not demonstrate potential to positively impact on the economy of Cumbria, South or West Scotland
  • deal with plant-based alternatives to milk
  • mainly install currently available technologies and involve minimal innovation
  • only involve product testing of agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, feeds or additives

Innovate UK cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

Funding Costs

Up to £2 million has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

If your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For 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

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 40% 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. Of that 40% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.