The role of research and development in the UK governments recently unveiled white paper on “levelling up” the country is a pretty central one. In fact, R&D is enough of a focus in the overall strategy of boosting UK productivity, opportunity, and innovation to form one of the white paper’s 12 core commitments. By 2030, the government plans to increase its R&D investment beyond the greater South East area by 40%, stimulating private sector innovation and long-term investment at the same time. This commitment comes alongside broader plans to improve living standards, reinforce infrastructure, raise education standards and skills development and lower crime across the whole country.
A great deal of this drive to level up directly impacts the R&D landscape for UK businesses of all sizes. If the UK is going to secure its place as a “science superpower” over the coming years, it’s critical that the benefits of R&D projects are felt more consistently among the country’s various sectors and regions, rather than being locked in too narrowly into the so-called “golden triangle” of the greater South East. With largely rural regions of the UK pumping £261 billion into the economy per year, creating an environment for innovation to flourish in the Agritech sector isn’t just good business – it’s a survival necessity.
With an industry as fundamental and essential as agriculture, it’s all too easy to pass off critical innovation as everyday problem-solving. Agritech, almost by definition, is innovation in its purest, most concentrated form. The pressures and challenges are enormous, with finite useable land available and dwindling resources to farm it. Rurally based businesses also frequently have to deal with greater obstacles in attracting investors and skilled workforces, challenges that are often intensified by infrastructural factors like a lack of affordable local housing or inadequate physical or digital connectivity.
Against this backdrop, agricultural innovation is a key factor in the UK’s entire levelling-up programme, with ground-breaking work going on constantly in creating a more streamlined, productive and sustainable sector. We’re not just seeing incremental improvements and developments, either. From hydroponic farms that require no soil to produce crops to vertical farming technologies, Agritech innovators are expanding the very definition of agriculture itself.
The thing is, those headline-grabbing major breakthroughs are only the tip of the Agritech revolution’s iceberg. There’s a world of much more “grounded” innovation going on day by day in the sector, and far too much of it’s being buried when it should be planted and nurtured. As long as we’re updating our definitions here, it’s long past time we reframed our understanding of innovation in Agritech – and the government’s white paper commitments to focus on UK R&D present an excellent opportunity to do just that. 95% of claims made through the government’s R&D tax relief schemes came from small and medium-sized enterprises as of March 2020. However, the claims those businesses actually made amounted to just 64% of the overall tax relief received. The figures are heavily slanted toward larger firms claiming through the RDEC system, despite those businesses making only 5% of all R&D claims. SMEs are huge drivers of innovation virtually across the board, but despite continued growth in their use of the R&D Tax Credits system, they’re still poorly represented in comparison to the work they’re doing.
Taking full advantage of the government’s country-wide levelling-up strategy means making the best possible use out of the support that’s available – including recognising when your work qualifies for tax relief. Events like Northern Powerhouse’s Agri-Tech 2021 are bringing the best minds in the field together, while regional schemes like the Devon Agri Tech Accelerator (DATA) are helping local farms to innovate through detailed farm analyses and bespoke decarbonisation plans. At the heart of it all, though, are the individual businesses turning their everyday innovations into powerful tools to create a more sustainable agriculture sector, both financially and ecologically. That work starts by understanding that it’s not just the big-tech “glamour projects” in R&D that contribute to the levelling up of the UK. Research and development in Agritech is more than just the day-to-day cost of doing business. It’s a direct investment in the future of the sector—and the people it feeds. Regardless of the scale of your enterprise, claiming the R&D tax relief your work entitles you to is the key to realising its full potential.
If you're in the business of breaking through barriers and pushing back boundaries, whether in Agritech or elsewhere, you could be due invaluable R&D Tax Relief. We can help you identify historic qualifying activity and get the credit you deserve - Get In Touch | Contact Us | RIFT R&D (riftresearch.com)