Driving market opportunities through international partnerships

A diverse group of audience clapping and smiling in a conference setting

The UK-Canada co-innovation programme takes new innovations to market, realising societal, economic and environmental impacts in both Europe and North America.

The transforming food production (TFP) programme hosted a virtual Collaboration Nation workshop earlier this month.

It brought together leading experts from the UK and Canadian agri-food innovation ecosystem.

The workshop established a forum to share progress from 13 co-innovation projects supported through Innovate UK and National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).

It also explored opportunities to share knowledge and build collaboration across the cohort for mutual benefit.

Celebrating the success of female innovators and entrepreneurs in agri-food sector

With the workshop taking place on International Women’s Day, it was great to see some fantastic keynote presentations from some of the leading government funding agencies and project figureheads, including:

  • Tamara Kononoff (NRC-IRAP) from Canada as part of the bilateral programme overview session
  • Kaeli Johnson (Innovate UK KTN Ltd) from the UK in the commercialisation of innovation session.

Exciting project overviews to update on co-innovations being developed between the UK and Canada were given by:

Between March and June 2022, inspiring company pitches were given to celebrate their selection in an agtech accelerator programme at Cultivator (Regina, Saskatchewan) by:

This supports their ambitions to establish new market opportunities in Canada.

Dynamic project presentations

The event was fast-paced, with short, dynamic project presentations focused on:

  • problems being tackled
  • innovative solutions being developed
  • anticipated outcomes
  • the all-important benefits to users.

These were followed by a series of breakout sessions that were structured to ensure new conversations were established among the wide-ranging capabilities and expertise of the workshop group, including:

  • diagnostic and sensor technologies
  • automation
  • robotics
  • unmanned aerial vehicles
  • machine learning
  • artificial intelligence
  • livestock genetics and nutrition
  • development of new biological actives and control agents.

Key trends across the projects

The breakout sessions explored common trends across the projects and where wider intra-project partnerships, collaboration and knowledge-sharing could help overcome the barriers to commercialisation and deployment faced by new technologies.

Some of the common themes that were identified through these conversations included:

  • data accessibility and integration
  • scale-up barriers and opportunities for new technologies or innovations
  • machine learning or artificial intelligence: deployment potential across agri-food systems.

Barriers and opportunities

Discussions also looked to identify shared technical and commercial barriers and opportunities being faced by delegates, which included:

  • access to pilot trial sites: facilitating adoption through demonstrating how technology works and benefits farmers and end users
  • identifying pre-competitive areas where broader partnerships could increase pace and scale of progress and reduce resource impacts on Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • skills pipeline: future workforce needs and access to talent
  • regulation: understanding of international context and how to navigate frameworks for registering new products in new territories including, exchange of biomaterials for
  • market insights and access to finance: intel or soft landings to support new export market opportunities, building connections and links to agtech focused investors (investment thesis)
  • data: multifaceted and across the agri-food supply chain, the capture, integration, connectivity and ‘packaging’ to provide decision support service for improved management and decision-making (on-farm and across food supply chain).

The road ahead

The event concluded by reflecting on the collaborative activities undertaken so far to establish partnerships, such as bilateral missions and roadmap documents.

These helped create a shared vision for the agri-food sector, and how the UK and Canada can stay competitive by working together.

These activities have been built on recently through Innovate UK’s Global Incubator Programmes.

They enable UK SMEs to understand international markets and benefit from expert insights to help gain traction in new territories overseas.

Supporting Canadian SMEs

An opportunity to support Canadian SMEs through existing networks within the UK innovation system, such as KTN Ltd, was also identified.

This would provide help for Canadian SMEs to be introduced to and work with a wide variety of businesses and research-based partners, including:

  • research and technology organisations
  • agri-tech centres
  • catapult network.

Bringing together expertise

Partners continue to work in this type of collaborative way and bring together expertise from both sides of the Atlantic.

This will help ensure that our joint funding through co-innovation programmes can take exciting new innovations to market, realising societal, economic and environmental impacts in both Europe and North America.

The workshop finished with new connections made and opportunities to pursue for many participants.

The Transforming Food Production challenge is delivered by Innovate UK.

Top image:  Credit: monkeybusinessimages, iStock via Getty Images Plus

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