New UKRI funding to unlock potential of Agri-Tech research at Essex

  • Date

    Wed 15 Jun 22

Professor Tracy Lawson

Essex Plant Innovation Centre (EPIC) based at the University of Essex will be increasing the impact of its Agri-Tech research after securing funding worth £100,000 from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

UKRI Impact Accelerator Account (IAA) funding is aimed at accelerating the impact of research including early-stage commercialisation, encouraging strategic partnerships and supporting innovation.

The award is part of £118 million being invested by UKRI across the country in to accelerating UK bright ideas into global opportunities.

The aim is to unlock the value of research to transform public services, create new jobs, attract private investment and forge new partnerships with business and charities.

EPIC Director Professor Tracy Lawson said: “The UKRI IAA investment will allow us to translate our on-going EPIC research with our existing partners into industrial impact. It is also providing us with the opportunity to develop novel proof of concepts with new partners and end users to address some of the key challenges in the agricultural and horticultural sectors.”

As part of this work, EPIC will launch an engagement fund to support the development of strategic partnerships, establish the Industry Advisory Group to inform its work and extend its network and launch a new Commercialisation Accelerator Programme.

Deputy Director (Enterprise) Kirstie Cochrane said: “Accelerating the impact from EPIC is core to our delivery of commercialisation for our Agri-Tech research, through working with external partners to deliver new products and services and developing our own new agri-tech opportunities.”

More abut EPIC

EPIC brings together research skills, expertise, and technologies from across the Faculty of Science and Health including the School of Life Sciences and School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering together with the Institute for Analytics and Data Science (IADS) and Essex Business School. Together EPIC researchers address the biggest challenges facing farmers, technologists, and all those in the agricultural and horticultural sectors.

EPIC is constantly aiming to expand its research impact in these areas as well as engagement with industry and end-users. Combining expertise in these various areas provides EPIC with the opportunity to explore new opportunities to engage with industry.

Essex researchers have attracted over £10m in research funding in the past five years and the University has the largest plant physiology and photosynthesis group in the UK. Using novel tools and a variety of approaches, from gene editing to high throughput phenotyping systems, we explore ways to improve plant water use efficiency as well as how plants can cope and recover from environmental stresses.

Industry-focussed work on LED lights and the impacts on plant performance is key to the vertical farming sector. Technology-driven research includes combining imaging of biological processes with robotic platforms for assessing fruit ripening and automation, focussing on sustainable production, reducing waste, and lowering the carbon footprint.
Further research includes animal behaviour prediction, data analysis for early disease detection, crop improvement, and soil health. EPIC’s research is responding to key challenges in the agricultural sector including ensuring food security and improving sustainability and resilience.

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