SMEs transforming food production: series A investor partnership

Key Features

UK registered SMEs that are transforming food production towards net zero can apply for a share of up to £5 million in grant support. This must align with a series A investment. The grant funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £5 million

Opens: 2nd Nov 2020

Closes: 13th Jan 2021

! This scheme is now closed


This competition will support UK registered micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The SMEs must be aspiring to transform food production through experimental development projects that are closer to market.

Your UK registered SME will receive:

  • grant funding
  • aligned investment funding from the programme’s pool of lead investors

You can apply for this competition before you speak to an investor. You can read the list of lead investors or find out more about how Innovate UK chose the investors.

As well as investment, the lead investors in the pool can provide you with commercial acumen, such as:

  • leadership
  • market access
  • skills
  • resources


You must develop precision technologies and data driven solutions that make a significant step towards realising net zero food production systems by 2040.

Your proposal must demonstrate the ambition to finalise a late stage innovation with the potential to grow and scale your business through successful negotiation of investment from a lead investor associated with the competition. You must provide a coherent project plan which integrates into your business strategy.

You must demonstrate how your project meets the overall aims of the ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge, which are to:

  • help food production systems achieve net zero emissions by 2040
  • help produce food in ways that are more efficient, resilient and sustainable
  • speed up the development and use of integrated precision approaches to improve productivity in agricultural systems

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

  • the development of precision solutions and systems that will make a significant step towards net zero emissions for food production
  • improving productivity of the agricultural sector
  • stimulating the establishment of novel high value production systems
  • developing export opportunities


This competition is not funding projects involving:

  • equine
  • amenity horticulture
  • wild-caught fisheries
  • non-food crops


This competition is open to single applicants only.

To apply your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be prepared to negotiate head of terms for an aligned series A investment

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £1 million and £3 million
  • start by 1 October 2021
  • end by 31 March 2023
  • last 18 months

Grant Funding Costs

ISCF has allocated up to £5 million to fund innovation projects in this competition. Your project can have total eligible costs between £1 million and £3 million.

Your funding request must not exceed the limits below. For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get grant 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

Aligned Private Investment

You must agree the private investment through a lead investor and reach heads of terms by 3 June 2021.

The aligned private investment:

  • must provide you with suitable capital to complete your project and grow and scale
  • is directed for use in your company, whereas the grant is to support the project only
  • can be used to fund additional costs typically ineligible for support by Innovate UK
  • must be provided under commercial terms negotiated with the lead investor and not Innovate UK

The investment can be in the form of either direct equity investment or a convertible loan. It must come from a single lead investor from the pool of investors associated with this programme. The lead investor may decide to syndicate with other investors from within or outside of the pool.