European funding, secured with the help of Hertfordshire LEP, has kick-started a new innovation programme at world leading research institute, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, as part of its Agricultural Research and Innovation Accelerator (AgRIA).

The new AgRIA venture will pair small businesses with researchers to collaborate on start-up enterprises, with the aim of turning agricultural innovation into practical solutions for a range of other industry sectors.

The venture is backed by £2.7m funding, half of which has come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with match funding from public and private sources.

Over the next three years, up to 25 'short-leap' projects will be launched, covering four themes which include Soils, Water and Environment; Internet of Things; High Value Products; and Sustainable and Green Products.

Tim Burton, ERDF Projects Facilitator, Hertfordshire LEP says, “We are delighted to have been involved in the development of this new AgRIA venture, which will harness Rothamsted’s agri-tech expertise to fuel business innovation across a broad spectrum of industries. AgRIA is a fantastic addition to the Hertfordshire Growth Package; our EU-funded portfolio of specialist business support programmes designed to help SMEs prosper and grow.”

Angela Karp, Director for Science Innovation, Engagement & Partnerships, Rothamsted Research says, “AgRIA is founded on a dynamic model developed at the institute to accelerate innovations arising from our strategic research programmes. The new venture will aim to create a hive of innovative activities based at the Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise (RocRE) on the institute’s Harpenden campus, to attract researchers, entrepreneurs, companies, seed funders and investors.

“Our goals align with the Industrial Strategy's five foundations of productivity, particularly Ideas, People and Business Environment. They respond to the government’s call for fresh thinking on how innovation arising from work funded by UK Research and Innovation is achieved.”

The new AgRIA venture was launched to an audience of agri-tech professionals and farmers at Rothamsted's Festival of Ideas, 22 June, which celebrated the 175th anniversary of the start of experimental work on the site.

Hertfordshire LEP has previously invested £500,000 from the Growth Deal and Growing Places Fund towards the refurbishment of Rothamsted’s Daniel Hall Innovation Centre, which provides much-needed incubation space for small and growing agri-tech businesses. The formerly redundant building now provides 1020 m. sq. of laboratory and office space on campus, enabling tenants to benefit from knowledge transfer opportunities. The centre has created 52 jobs to date and currently houses six businesses including Timac Agro, Curtis Analytics, Babwe Barton, FungiAlert, Agrix Advisors and Bio Nano Consulting. It is expected to house 15 businesses and create up to 72 jobs by 2020.