Issue Deep Dive
UK / Agricultural R&D
Last updated: October 10, 2023
A large part of the UK’s focus on agriculture is around support for agricultural R&D. This strong focus on agricultural R&D is driven by the UK’s long-standing commitment to using a significant part of its ODA budget to support R&D. The UK has been the top donor in terms of R&D ODA spending for many years. In more recent years, the drive has also been supported as part of the UK government’s broader commitment to increase public investment in R&D to drive innovation in the UK economy.
In 2021, the UK launched the Gilbert Initiative, which aims to coordinate investments in evidence generation, technology development and delivery to support a food system that by 2030: feeds nine billion people with nutritious, safe foods; uses environmental resources sustainably; enhances resilience and adaptation to climate change; and generates inclusive growth and jobs. The initiative focuses exclusively on transforming climate-resilient food systems through research and innovation. While the initiative had grand ambitions at its inception, it has fallen short of delivery due to the UK’s reduced ODA budget. The initiative does not have a budget line and appears to now have limited political backing, acting more as a coordinating mechanism for the limited investments across the FCDO, DEFRA, and other government departments on the topic.
The FCDO has committed to the UK hosting a global food security and nutrition event that will focus on sustainable agriculture. The event will be held in November 2023 and is part of the government’s commitment to focus on seven campaigns made in the Integrated Review refresh. The event will seek to increase the availability, affordability, and quality of malnutrition treatment and prevention products, driving the shift to sustainable agriculture, and making greater use of science and R&D, alongside anticipatory action on famine risk and resilience building.
In 2021, bilateral ODA to agricultural R&D was estimated at US$70 million. Pressures from COVID-19 recovery, the UK’s exit from the EU, and the ensuing political and economic instability, have played a role in the ODA budget decrease, which may have trickled down to agricultural R&D.
The UK announced GBP10 million ( US$12 million) for the Avaana Fund, a women-led climate-technology fund that supports businesses in India. Projects are focused on providing innovative solutions to clean energy, energy storage and agriculture and also seek to create jobs for women in these sectors.
The UK also announced GBP12 billion ( US$14 million) through the Neev-II fund, which supports abbr:SMEs that are focused on helping India meet reduce its carbon missions. The funding was allocated for Nutrifresh, an agricultural technology start-up company that is focused on driving sustainable agriculture.
Agricultural R&D funding from the UK is not estimated to grow between 2023-2024, similar to overall agricultural ODA. The government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to continue to deliver on scaling-up overall R&D public funding and created a new dept for science, innovation, and technology. But the pledge to increase R&D ODA spending currently hangs in the balance as a result of the reduced ODA budget and the financing pressures of IDRCs and the conflict in Ukraine, as well as uncertainties around fulfillment of the country’s international climate finance commitments.
The estimations for agricultural R&D funding, both at aggregate and donor-specific level, are the result of a methodology created by SEEK Development and based on data from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification. Numbers for 2020 and 2021 are projections calculated based on figures for 2017-2019, as well as trends identified through qualitative research.
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