The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said it is considering a potential new fund to maximise value from innovation spending on agriculture and nature.

The department has launched a new expert advisory group to explore possible routes to generate commercial returns for the taxpayer from its research and development (R&D) spending.

Defra is now inviting experts in academia, business and the financial sector to apply to join the group.

Those appointed will weigh in on a range of potential financing mechanisms, including a new dedicated fund supporting “groundbreaking initiatives” in the agri-tech and environmental sectors, Defra said.

Other arrangements could include joint ventures, revenue sharing arrangements, and the licensing of intellectual property to maximise the benefits of Defra’s agricultural and environmental R&D and innovation spending, while boosting productivity and economic growth.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Science and technology are fundamental to strengthening our food security, enhancing nature and protecting our environment.

“From new technologies driving more productive and sustainable farming to maps and models for managing invasive species, research and development has the potential to transform the way we manage our land and feed our nation.

“We are now recruiting for a specialist advisory group to explore options for a more commercial approach to Defra’s R&D and innovation funding, from revenue sharing to setting up a dedicated new fund for innovation whilst offering the taxpayer a return on their investment.

“I encourage anyone with expertise in the fields of finance, venture capital, intellectual property and innovation to apply.”

Advisory group

Defra’s R&D budget supports the development of new technologies and innovation, often via grants.

However, organisations can face challenges accessing finance for scaling up and commercialising their products or services, causing them to miss commercial opportunities or lose out to international competition, Defra said.

Its new advisory group will explore how the department can support innovators to overcome barriers such as these, whilst examining how taxpayers could benefit from a share in their commercial success, where this has resulted from public funding.

A chair and seven members will be appointed ahead of an inaugural meeting of the group later this year and an expected committee duration of three months.

Applications are open for the position of chair and the deadline is midday on Monday, June 3, 2024.