Funding to boost advances in environmental monitoring solutions

An unrecognisable farmer using an artificial intelligence tablet to scan his wheat crop in a field, he is able to carry out product analysis, quality assessment, statistics and the needs of the plant. He is clicking on the bug icon on the screen to check the soil moisture and ph levels.

Announcing latest funding designed to drive economic growth in the UK’s environmental monitoring sector.

Innovate UK and the Department for Environment Food Rural Affairs’ (Defra) will invest up to £5 million for collaborative projects that develop environmental monitoring solutions to enable improved monitoring of environmental variables.

Global demand for environmental monitoring is rising as awareness grows regarding the importance of monitoring the environment’s state and changes over time. This presents a significant opportunity for future growth and this funding opportunity aims to position the UK at the forefront of this burgeoning market.

Innovation in environmental monitoring programme

Defra and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) committed £12 million over three years to drive research and innovation projects aimed at advancing monitoring capabilities in strategically significant areas.

This second funding opportunity builds on the success of the inaugural funding opportunity held in the summer of 2023 led by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Defra. While the NERC-led funding focuses on research-led activity, the Innovate UK-led funding opportunity emphasises business-led activity.

UKRI and Defra intend to bring together the grant holders from both funding opportunities to develop a broad UK community in innovative environmental sensing and monitoring. Successful applicants are encouraged to engage with community building activities.

Join the challenge

Opening on 22 January, the Innovate UK-led funding opportunity seeks pioneering projects that will drive the development of innovative sensing systems and monitoring capabilities in one or more of the four challenge areas:

  • biodiversity and natural capital
  • soil health (including measuring soil carbon)
  • water quality
  • greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from Defra sectors

Collaborative projects should look to advance sensing systems and monitoring technologies, enhancing current methods, or introducing novel ones. They will undergo thorough testing, including on-the-ground validation (ground-truthing), ensuring accuracy and reliability for potential large-scale deployment.

The initiative seeks to boost the UK environmental monitoring sector, aligning with expanding markets for environmental sensing, and contributing to national economic growth and government policy priorities.

Building a strong UK community

Dr Stella Peace, Executive Director for the Healthy Living and Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK, said:

By fostering collaboration between business-led and research-led initiatives, we aim to build a robust UK community and pipeline of activities dedicated to advancing environmental sensing and monitoring.

This programme aligns with our vision to catalyse transformative changes that contribute to a sustainable and resilient future for the UK, making life better for all.

Delivering impact and economic growth through business led innovation

Professor Gideon Henderson, Chief Scientific Adviser at Defra, said:

Monitoring is critical for effective management of the environment and is a growing business area as society, government and businesses recognise the need for better stewardship.

There is huge potential for use of new technologies to improve the way we monitor, and I am excited by the new approaches this programme will deliver. These will enable improved capability for a range of end users in the private and public sectors, including how Defra undertakes environmental monitoring.

This investment will also support the economic growth of innovative companies and enable key policies, such as providing trusted data for nature markets.

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

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