Explore an idea that could benefit your farm and others

If you, or a group of farmers, have an idea you think could improve farming and solve a long-term practical challenge, you can apply for funding for a ‘Research Starter Project’. 

The funding is for farmers, growers and foresters to explore ways to bring benefits across the whole farming community.

You’ll be able to investigate a problem you know exists to work out what could best be done about it. 


How this funding will work

Full details of eligibility and how to apply will be published on the Innovation Funding Service (opens in new window) in October 2021. 

This funding is being run as a competition, which means that all the applications will be judged and only the successful ones will be funded. 

The funding will be awarded based on the potential impact your idea could have on farming in England. We’re looking for big ambitious ideas, where you need science to help you out.

This is a 2-stage competition to make funding accessible to more people.

Stage 1 – expression of interest

At the first stage of the competition, you’ll only need to submit an ‘expression of interest’. This means explaining your idea so that it can be assessed. 

You’ll need to:

  • be a farmer, grower or forester based in England
  • look at the full eligibility details and project scope information
  • prepare and submit your expression of interest on the Innovation Funding Service (opens in new window) before the closing date

All the ideas submitted will be assessed and ranked. 

The applicants whose ideas are judged to have the most impact will then be invited to complete the second stage of the competition. 

Stage 2 – full application

If you’re invited to complete the second stage of the competition, you’ll need to collaborate with others. You’ll be offered independent support to help you make your full application and to build a team.

We’ll help you to make the best application you can for your idea. 

In your full application, at stage 2, you’ll need to explain: 

  • your idea
  • the team you’re going to work with
  • your approach and costs
  • how the project will be managed
  • what you hope to find out

Amount of funding you could get

You’ll need to work out the cost of what you want to do for your research starter project. 

For this competition only, you can apply for up to 70% of these costs, up to a maximum amount of £56,000. 

You’ll need to cover the rest of the money in the project yourself. You can spread this cost, and reduce your individual investment, by working with others on your project and getting their investment.

Get ready to apply

You’ll find full details of how to apply from October 2021 on the Innovation Funding Service (opens in new window).

Next steps

A research starter project can be used as the basis for a longer-term project. 

For example, you could apply later on for funding to check if your idea works in practice, or to develop a new farm product or service.

More about Farming Innovation funding

There will be other funding available from a range of competitions over several years in Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme. 

Defra is working with partners to develop the ‘Accelerating Adoption Fund’. This will fund smaller-scale projects to trial new technologies, processes and practices on farms.

All the funding is aimed at increasing innovation and boosting productivity in the agri-food sector in England.

Find out more about the Farming Innovation Programme.