SBRI: Plant health innovations for biosecurity

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £800,000, inclusive of VAT, to develop and demonstrate the feasibility of innovative solutions for plant health.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £800,000

Opens: 6th Nov 2023

Closes: 20th Dec 2023

! This scheme is now closed


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition delivered by Innovate UK part of UKRI, supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Biotechnology Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC).


This competition aims to accelerate the effective development of innovative solutions, technologies, or practices that enhance plant health and biosecurity activities. With a focus on regulated pests, diseases and of future operational deployment.

Your project can deliver innovation focused research activities to progress solutions towards one or more of the challenges listed for this competition. This can include establishing the feasibility of an idea, to demonstrating principle, or developing a prototype.

Your project outputs will be expected to outline quantitative potential improvements in effectiveness or efficiency savings of your solution.

Projects which address the challenges by exploring a biological question or applying bioscience or biotechnology to advance the needs of solution users are encouraged.

Your project must demonstrate:

  • the development and operational feasibility of innovative technologies or practices
  • how you have taken the needs of intended users into consideration in your product or service development
  • a credible and practical route to use in an operational environment and commercialisation
  • knowledge transfer and exchange between the solution providers and solution users

SBRI encourage collaboration and co-design between solution developers and real-world solution users. This can include a solutions provider working with UK horticultural, forestry, agricultural growers, importers and exporters of plants and plant products, or working directly with the UK Plant Health Service Inspectorate.

Challenge Areas

Your project must focus on one or more of the following challenges and be applicable to regulated plant pests and diseases:

  • developing innovative technologies and practices to enhance border inspections of traded plants for planting and plant commodities, including wood and wood products, improving sampling accuracy, detection rates of regulated pests, time and resource efficiency of inspectors
  • enhancing in-land inspections of plants in nurseries, recently planted sites or the wider environment, through the application of innovative technologies and practices to enable pest and pathogen detection in the field, reducing the risk of outbreaks
  • utilising passive and scanning surveillance approaches to provide timely and cost-effective methods for detecting pests and diseases in different landscape settings
  • managing the supply of potentially infected or infested plants and plant commodities pre and post border, presenting alternative treatments to destruction following detection of a quarantine organism, reducing financial losses whilst maintaining biosecurity

Research Categories

This SBRI competition is open to both technical feasibility studies and prototype development and evaluation.

Your project can work closely with stakeholders to develop a solution. You can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real-life operating conditions.


Your project must:

  • have total costs between £20,000 and £150,000, inclusive of VAT
  • start between 1 April 2024 and 1 October 2024
  • end by 31 March 2025
  • last between 3 and 12 months
  • intend to exploit results from and within the United Kingdom

Lead organisation

To lead a project, you can be an organisation of any size including:

  • a registered business, charity, or Non-Governmental Organisation
  • a research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding

To lead a project, you can work alone or with subcontracted or non-funded organisations as collaborators, such as solution developers and real-world solution users.

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only, with any required subcontracting or arrangements between non funded partners, the Lead organisation and collaborators are to be arranged independently. The project and delivery against the project milestones will remain the responsibility of the Lead organisation.

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


Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • are not original or in scope
  • do not demonstrate significant support and engagement from potential users, setting out a clear route use in an operational environment and commercialisation throughout the project
  • duplicates previous or someone else’s work
  • focus purely on training, minor training elements can be included
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes (such as on the environment or society) would be managed
  • do not evidence the potential for their proposed innovation to generate positive economic or societal impact
  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions

Funding Costs

A total of up to £800,000 inclusive of VAT is allocated to this competition. Contracts of between £20,000 and £150,000, inclusive of VAT, will be awarded to develop and demonstrate the feasibility of a solution.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations
  • apply a ‘portfolio’ approach

The contract is completed at the end of the competition, and the successful organisation is expected to pursue commercialisation of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and suggest you seek independent advice from HMRC.

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs inclusive of VAT must not exceed £150,000.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £150,000.

Research and development (R&D)

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • routine integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Subsidy Control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

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.