Growing Kent and Medway: prototyping and demonstrator fund

Key Features

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £750,000 for the development and demonstration of innovative new technologies. These projects will be in the horticultural food and drink supply chain.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £750,000

Opens: 20th Nov 2023

Closes: 24th Jan 2024

! This scheme is now closed


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with Growing Kent and Medway (GKM) consortium, led by NIAB to invest up to £750,000 in innovative projects. These projects are for the development and demonstration of innovative new technologies in the horticultural food and drink supply chain.

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


The aim of this competition is to support business focused innovative technology development with emphasis on industrial prototyping and demonstration. The technologies developed in these projects must aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve sustainability, or deliver improved productivity in horticultural and food production systems.

The competition focuses on:

  • horticultural production including the production of novel, high value compounds from plants
  • fresh produce packaging
  • food and drink processing and manufacturing

Your proposal must focus on innovative technology development and:

  • design, develop, test and deploy a technology
  • conduct a technical and economic assessment

Innovate UK want to fund real world prototypes or demonstrators of innovative technologies in an operational setting in the horticultural food and drink production sector.

Your proposal must demonstrate the potential to positively impact on the economy of the Kent and Medway (K&M) area.

Your project must:

  • provide solutions that tackle new or emerging needs
  • demonstrate a realistic potential to support business growth, scale-up, and job creation
  • deliver benefit to the region as well as further afield
  • underpin a full commercial and operational technology deployment after September 2025, by delivering a meaningful operational demonstration in real world conditions for at least two weeks before 30 November 2025
  • achieve market potential through a clear strategy for commercialising the technology and the product

At the end of your real-world operational demonstration project, you must:

  • produce a clear, detailed and costed plan to fully scale and enter the solution into UK and global markets over the next 3 years, including your technical approach, objectives and business case
  • detail your plan for compliance with regulation and how you will work with relevant regulatory bodies for novel technologies
  • quantify the economic impacts in the future, including citing usage data from the demonstration period
  • explain your understanding of any remaining barriers to full market adoption
  • share your findings with GKM and Innovate UK in your end of project report
  • work with GKM to produce a plan for disseminating the results of your demonstration project and knowledge sharing with relevant stakeholders and industry

Demonstration period

Your demonstration must include the technology being used in a representative real world operational environment for a period of at least two weeks.

There is no fixed definition of how projects must undertake their demonstration and use this minimum two week period. The demonstration will depend on your project, technology and what is required to prove its performance. Innovate UK strongly encourage projects to utilise this minimum two week period fully and to gather as much performance data as possible.

Your application must clearly state how you plan to undertake the demonstration, including how much time in operational use you currently expect and why this is appropriate for your project. During the demonstration you must validate the technology operation for the use case or target market and capture data on the performance.

Portfolio approach

Innovate UK want to fund projects across different technologies, geographic sub-regions, technological maturities, theme and research categories. We call this a portfolio approach.

Portfolio consideration will include:

  • sub-regional balance
  • sub-sector balance, for example: horticulture, viticulture, Agri-food tech
  • its place in the value chain, for example: cultivation, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, packaging, distribution and business model innovation
  • strength and depth of collaboration
  • research partner participation
  • quality of the demonstration activity proposed

Specific Themes

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

  • moving towards net zero carbon emissions targets
  • minimising waste and maximising recycling
  • improving resource use efficiency and sustainability
  • increasing productivity
  • resilient food production, for example: supply chain resilience, nutritional security
  • addressing current and future labour or skills shortages, supply or demand driven, within the K&M agri-food sector


Any awards given to primary agricultural producers are subject to the green box exemption under the 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 £150,000
  • start from 1 May 2024
  • end by 30 September 2025
  • last up to 12 months
  • carry out at least 60% of its project work in the Kent and Medway (K&M) area
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the K&M area

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

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.

Lead organisation

The lead organisation may be based outside of the Kent and Medway (K&M) area but you must collaborate with at least one organisation in the K&M area.

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • be able to evidence that you are an established business, including sole traders and partnerships
  • have a UK bank account
  • collaborate with other UK registered businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities
  • collaborate with at least one organisation in the K&M area
  • include a minimum of 2 organisations in the consortium
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the K&M area

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

Academic institutions and Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be a UK based grower, producer, food and drink manufacturer or one of the following UK registered:

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

Collaborations with research organisations in the K&M area are encouraged but not mandatory. These organisations are:

  • NIAB
  • University of Greenwich
  • University of Kent
  • Canterbury Christ Church University

Collaborations with research organisations from outside the K&M area are not permitted in this competition.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once partners have accepted the invitation, they will be asked to login or to create an account in IFS. They are responsible for entering their own project costs in the application.

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

Non-funded partners

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. 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 overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors 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 an overseas subcontractor.

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

Number of applications

A business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in two further applications.

If a business is not leading a project, they can collaborate on any number of applications within this competition.

Research organisations, charities, not for profit, public sector organisations and research and technology organisations 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:

  • are early stage research and development or feasibility studies
  • do not demonstrate the potential to positively impact on the economy of the K&M area
  • involve a research organisation from outside the K&M area
  • focus only on available technologies and involve minimal innovation
  • are a duplicate of existing innovation
  • are for capital investment only
  • fail to commit to delivering social value
  • have a focus on animal or fish-based production systems and animal or fish derived food and drink products
  • grow plants with the primary purpose of producing animal feed

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 £750,000 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

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 25% if you are a large organisation

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% 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 30% 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.