- New Funding Available: UK businesses in sectors such as horticulture, forestry, and agriculture can now apply for a share of up to £800,000 in research grant funding to develop technologies for plant health and biosecurity.
- Enhancing Biosecurity: The funding is aimed at increasing the UK’s capabilities in plant health inspections, pest and disease surveillance, and managing the risk of infected commodities to protect against regulated plant diseases and pests.
- Boosting Technical Innovation: Grants are directed towards innovative technologies and practices that can improve inspection efficiency, detect pathogens, and manage infestations in various settings, from borders to in-land environments.
- Strategic Importance: The investment reflects the UK’s strategic commitment to plant biosecurity, a component crucial for food security, environmental health, and economic stability, highlighted by a potential annual benefit of £15.7bn from plants and trees.
- Collaborative Efforts: This initiative is a collaborative endeavor involving Defra, UKRI, and other partners, encouraging organizations to apply and contribute to the UK’s leading position in plant biosecurity.
The United Kingdom has launched a new grant funding initiative to significantly strengthen the nation’s technical capabilities in protecting plant health and ensuring biosecurity. This move comes as part of the broader strategy to defend the country’s vast and valuable plant-based resources against the escalating threats of plant pests and diseases, which pose risks to food security and contribute to the challenges presented by climate change.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), in conjunction with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), announced the availability of up to £800,000 for businesses working in technological innovation within critical sectors such as horticulture, forestry, and agricultural production. This funding is open for application starting today. It signifies a concerted effort by the UK government to invest in forward-thinking solutions that can safeguard the nation’s biodiversity and agricultural wealth.
The Importance of Plant Biosecurity
Lord Benyon, Defra Minister for Biosecurity, underlined the importance of plants and trees to the UK, contributing an estimated £15.7 billion annually to society. He stressed the need to protect these resources and ensure that the UK remains a leader in emerging technologies, contributing to this goal. The new investment underscores the government’s commitment to not only enhance biosecurity but also to stimulate economic growth through technological innovation.
Eligible Activities for Grant Funding
The grant funding is mainly targeted at developing cutting-edge technologies and practices to enhance plant health inspections at the country’s borders, improve pest and disease surveillance, and present alternative strategies for managing potentially infected commodities. Activities eligible for funding include:
- Improving detection rates.
- Increasing the accuracy and efficiency of inspectors.
- Implementing innovative methods for pest and pathogen detection in the field and the broader environment.
Strategic Collaboration and Innovation
Professor Guy Poppy, interim Executive Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), emphasized the strategic nature of this collaboration in protecting plant health. He pointed out that investment in this area is crucial for maintaining a dynamic and productive national capability in plant health and biosecurity. Alongside the expertise provided by Innovate UK, this initiative is set to convene the best in academia and business to drive sustainable solutions for plant health.
Professor Nicola Spence, Defra Chief Plant Health Officer, echoed the sentiment, highlighting the importance of national solid biosecurity. The announcement invites organizations to participate in this critical effort to protect the UK’s plants and trees from potential threats.
The Future of Plant Health in the UK
This announcement follows the earlier launch of the Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain, which outlined a five-year vision for plant health. It included an action plan to secure national biosecurity, protect native species, and facilitate economic growth. Today’s announcement reaffirms the commitment to public funding in plant health research and development, ensuring that the UK’s plant health regime is at the cutting edge of technical capabilities.