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Agri-tech research in the UK – a major field of growth


2nd Sep 2014

Agricultural technology (‘agri-tech’) is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets owing to the global challenges of a rising population, rapid development of emerging economies and shortages of land, energy and water. Based on this rapid growth and the UK’s existing strengths in this sector, the UK Government has identified agri-tech as one of its ‘eight great technologies’ that it hopes will propel the UK to future growth.

The UK Government therefore announced its first ever agri-tech strategy in 2013, with the stated vision for “the UK to become a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability; exploit opportunities to develop and adopt new and existing technologies, products and services to increase productivity; and contribute to global food security and international development.” In order to achieve this vision, the strategy set out to:

  • improve the translation of research into practice through a £70 million government investment in an ‘Agri-Tech Catalyst’;
  • support the development and exploitation of new technologies through £90 million of government funding for ‘Centres for Agricultural Innovation’; and
  • establish a ‘Centre for Agricultural Informatics and Metrics of Sustainability’ to help exploit the potential of ‘big data’ and informatics.

This agri-tech strategy has already shown encouraging signs, with Bayer CropScience’s recent decision to begin wheat variety testing in Cambridge. As Andrew Orme, managing director of Bayer CropScience in the UK, explained: “The UK Government now has a positive policy on modern, productive, and sustainable agriculture for the first time in years and we are responding in what is an exciting day for Bayer CropScience, which should send a clear message that we have serious intentions as a wheat seed company.” Other UK-based agri-tech organisations, such as Agri-Tech East, are also prospering. Launched in 2013 as the UK’s first agri-tech cluster organisation, Agri-Tech East’s aims to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of plant-based agriculture and horticulture by linking the world-class research capability of Norwich and Cambridge with highly innovative growers who manage much of the UK’s most productive and profitable agricultural land.

In light of the gaining momentum in agri-tech research, the importance of Intellectual Property (IP) rights cannot be overestimated. Patents, trade marks, designs and plant variety rights are all valuable tools that can be employed to generate or protect a profit stream derived from agri-tech innovations. However, between 2004 and 2013, only 2% of agri-science patent families were first filed in the UK. UK-based agri-tech innovators therefore seem to be under-using the patent system relative to global competitors such as China, Japan and the US.

As an internationally renowned firm of European and UK patent, trade mark and design attorneys based in London and Cambridge, Reddie & Grose is ideally placed to help agri-tech researchers obtain strong IP protection for their innovations both in the UK and overseas. Unlike many of our competitors, Reddie & Grose has attorneys with PhDs in plant molecular biology and expertise in handling applications for plant variety rights as well as patents, trade marks and designs. Please get in touch if you would like our assistance.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking before any action in reliance on it.

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