From today (Monday, November 6), businesses can apply for a share of a new funding pot of £800,000 for the development of new biosecurity solutions and technologies.

The new funding has been launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Applications are open to businesses working in technological innovation and the UK horticultural industry, forestry, agricultural growers, importers and plant product export sectors.

The application deadline is December 20, 2023, with contracts awarded for successful proposals from April 1, 2024, for up to 12 months.

Individual projects will have total costs between £20,000 and £150,000, inclusive of VAT.

Defra said the fund will develop innovations to enhance plant health inspections, both at the border and in-land, pest and disease surveillance and management of infected commodities – helping safeguard food security and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Minister for biosecurity, Lord Benyon, said: 

“Plants and trees provide £15.7 billion to society annually in the UK, and it is imperative that they are protected and the UK remains at the forefront of emerging technologies to do this. 

“The UK is proud to be a global leader in plant biosecurity, and this new investment is part of the government’s commitment to invest in new technologies, enhance biosecurity and boost the economy which will ensure protection for our plants and trees.

Eligible projects

Types of activities eligible for the grant include:

  • Developing innovative technologies and practices to enhance border inspections of traded plants for planting and plant commodities;
  • Enhancing in-land inspections of plants in nurseries, recently planted sites or the wider environment, through the application of innovative technologies and practices to enable pest and pathogen detection in the field;
  • Utilising passive and scanning surveillance approaches to provide timely and cost-effective methods for detecting pests and diseases in different landscape settings;
  • Managing the supply of potentially infected or infested plants and plant commodities pre and post border by presenting alternative treatments to destruction of the plants following detection of a quarantine organism.

Defra chief plant health officer, Prof Nicola Spence, said:

“Maintaining strong national biosecurity is hugely important, and today’s announcement will help tackle the threat of plant pests and diseases by innovating border and in-land plant health inspections, pest and disease surveillance and infection control.

“I encourage as many organisations as possible to apply over the next six weeks to play their part in protecting the UK’s plants and trees from pests and diseases.”