Centre for Research & Enterprise

18th February 2018

Rothamsted expanding its on-site business community

Herts based agritech business hub growing rapidly
Sixty percent increase in office space in 2019 will house even more innovative businesses
Adds to growing regional strength in agriculture, environment and food related industries

World-renowned agricultural research institute Rothamsted Research has said increased demand is behind the planned expansion in capacity of its on-site innovation facilities for business.

The newly named Rothamsted Agritech Business Centre will increase in size by 60% from April, to accommodate companies wishing to join with the twenty-one already based at the Institute’s Harpenden headquarters. Nicole Sadd, the Executive Director of Rothamsted Enterprises who run the Agritech Business Centre - along with the Conference Centre, Restaurant, and Manor House venue - said it was an exciting time for both the Rothamsted campus and the region.

“We’ve reached a real critical mass now and that’s attracting business from all over the world. The Hub is thriving, and both the companies on-site and the Institute’s scientists are benefiting from being able to share ideas, knowledge and facilities. It certainly helps being attached to perhaps the best-known agricultural research centre in the world. When you include our on-site conferencing facilities, our transport links, and our proximity to London, it’s made us attractive for anyone looking to start up a business in this sector. When you also factor in the rise of the Green Triangle partnership, and the Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter Enterprise Zone, the county is fast becoming the nexus for smart ideas in the fields of sustainability, farming and food production.”

Businesses with a presence at Rothamsted range in size - from start-ups and SMEs right through to established international agribusiness such as Gowan Crop Protection and Timac Agro.

Agri-tech innovation is booming in the UK, with the sector worth over £14 billion to UK economy, so as well as having scientists and businesses on site, Rothamsted Enterprises also has the investors flocking. “Being able to bring world leading researchers together with exciting visionaries and disrupters is crucial for the UK’s innovation sector,” says Sadd. “Add in a number of investors, and Rothamsted really is at the centre of this new ‘food web’.”

These collaborations are already bearing fruit, with several tenants forging links with scientists based at the Institute. Babwe Barton Enterprises, who specialise in capturing energy and emissions expelled from air-conditioning units and heating systems, have forged several such links, according to CEO Christopher Barton. “Our technology recovers pollutants converting them into other useful chemicals, and energy, which is turned into electricity. We’ve also been working with some Rothamsted scientists, testing the particulates that are captured and establishing whether they are usable for commercially viable products such as fertiliser.”

Alongside the Business Centre, Rothamsted Enterprises also runs the on-site Rothamsted Conference Centre, which held over 1400 events and welcomed 52,000 delegates through its doors last year.

Rothamsted Manor, the 17th century, Grade I listed manor house, is now used as a venue for weddings, VIP receptions and other special events.

The popular Rothamsted Restaurant, which has been open to the public for 2 years, is also going from strength to strength, with over 40,000 sales in 2018.


Rothamsted Agritech Business Centre is increasing the floor space available to businesses from 22,305 sq ft to 35,395 sq ft, a 59% increase.

Please contact Asmaa Shariff, Head of Client Services for more information (T: 01582 938 679 , email asmaa.shariff@rocre-rothamsted.com , www.rocre-rothamsted.com


5th December 2018

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Appointed as New Chair of  the Rothamsted Centre For Research And Enterprise Board

Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, RoCRE, part of the historic, world-renowned Rothamsted Research campus in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, has announced the formal appointment of a new Chairperson, The Baroness Jones of Whitchurch. Baroness Jones will assume her position in December 2018 and will be responsible for leading RoCRE and its’ Board in developing the strategy and vision, providing clear strategic direction, and ensuring that RoCRE delivers for all of its’ shareholders.

Baroness Jones is Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is a British Labour Peer and previously a trade union official and Labour politician. She has held non-executive positions in a number of consumer and environmental organisations.

Nicole Sadd, Executive Director of RoCRE comments on the new appointment: “We are delighted to welcome Baroness Jones to RoCRE. Her skills and expertise coupled with her knowledge and experience of the environment and political landscape are the perfect combination to help RoCRE build to its full potential and respond to the government’s industrial strategy.”

“RoCRE has a big part to play in bringing innovation, research and science together to encourage the development of the agritech sector. I’m very much looking forward to taking up the position, and supporting RoCRE in its role in developing a long-term, sustainable solution to tackle the global challenges we face as a society such as a growing population, climate change and an increase in aspirational lifestyle expectations. There is a huge opportunity in the agritech arena due to the technological advances taking place and the UK has the ability to be the leader on the world stage”, says Baroness Jones.

For more information, go to www.rocre-rothamsted.com or contact Claire Flawn, Marketing, claire.flawn@rocre-rothamsted.com Tel: 01582 938175.


Notes to Editors

Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise (RoCRE) is a joint collaboration between Rothamsted Research (RRES), the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)[1] based on the historic, world-renowned Rothamsted Research campus in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. It is the first stage in the development of a larger campus on the site in Harpenden.

RoCRE is a unique hub focused on promoting collaboration and innovation by partnering with commercial agricultural technology businesses and opening up the research process. It supports agritech start-ups, spin-out companies, growing SMEs and more mature businesses by offering office and lab space and business support services. Alongside that, RoCRE also offers state-of-the-art conferencing and meeting facilities as well as the stunning Grade 1 listed Rothamsted Manor, for exclusive private hire, for special events, VIP drinks, dinners and parties. RoCRE was established in April 2015.

[1] As from 1 April 2018 BBSRC became part of United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) -established as a body corporate through the enactment of UK Higher Education and Research Act 2017 - with the property, rights and liabilities of BBSRC being acquired by UKRI.



7th November 2018

 Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise joins  UK Science Park Association (UKSPA)

Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, RoCRE, part of the historic, world-renowned Rothamsted Research campus in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, has joined the United Kingdom Science Park Association (UKSPA). UKSPA represents over 130 science, technology and innovation parks in the UK, encompassing well over 4000 companies, and exists to represent innovative knowledge-based environments.

Nicole Sadd, Executive Director of RoCRE comments on the importance of being part of UKSPA: “It’s vital that the innovation centres we build here at RoCRE are fit for purpose and we’re looking forward to building many fruitful relationships with other like-minded parks and organisations. Being part of UKSPA will help us ensure that RoCRE is not only firmly on the map in terms of our state-of-the-art facilities and offering as a centre for innovation and collaboration, but will also help us build a network of relationships across the UK with other parks, to share ideas and best practice. Connecting with these businesses will cement our position in UK innovation culture. Of course, we also want to look at how we can continually keep up with and exceed the competition!”

“UKSPA are delighted to welcome RoCRE on board” says Jim Duvall, Executive Director of UKSPA. “Our work to promote the UK’s Science and Innovation sector is greatly enhanced by the scale and growth of our membership and RoCRE are an important addition to our Association. UKSPA’s mission is also to help deliver the ambitious plans that RoCRE has to expand their capacity to deliver even greater impact in the future.”

For more information, go to www.rocre-rothamsted.com or contact Claire Flawn, Marketing, claire.flawn@rocre-rothamsted.com Tel: 01582 938175.


Notes to Editors

Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, RoCRE, part of the historic, world-renowned Rothamsted Research campus in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, is a unique hub focused on promoting collaboration and innovation by partnering with commercial agricultural technology businesses and opening up the research process. It supports agritech start-ups, spin-out companies, growing SMEs and more mature businesses by offering office and lab space and business support services. Alongside that, RoCRE also offers state-of-the-art conferencing and meeting facilities as well as the stunning Grade 1 listed Rothamsted Manor, for exclusive private hire, for special events, VIP drinks, dinners and parties.


28th September 2017

Timac Agro UK partners with Rothamsted to deliver real farm improvements

 Farmers stand to benefit from cutting edge research into plant and animal nutrition after Timac Agro UK established its head office at the Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise (RoCRE).

 The firm, which specialises in revolutionary crop and livestock nutrition – from fertiliser to mineral blocks – has moved to the Hertfordshire site to further develop its research and industry links. “Our job is to enhance nutrient efficiency, to better meet plant and animal needs and help farmers to make greater margins,” explains Cyril Cappe, general manager at Timac Agro UK.

 “As a global company we are always investing in research and development, with over 70 partnerships with universities around the globe. However, UK farmers have specific challenges and needs, and by working with Rothamsted we can develop specific solutions.”

 Timac Agro manufactures everything from arable and grass fertiliser to bio-stimulants, soil conditioners, mineral blocks, bedding and slurry enhancers. “We want to help build a sustainable business for farmers and for the next generation of Timac Agro UK,” says Mr Cappe. “To do that we need to go a bit further than everyone else, working with scientists and experts in their field to increase nutrition efficiencies.”

 Rothamsted Research is the longest running agricultural research station in the world, and the associated RoCRE provides a hub for agri-tech businesses, promoting collaboration and innovation by partnering research with commercial organisations. “We now have 15 businesses on-site and we are delighted that Timac Agro UK is joining the Rothamsted community,” says RoCRE executive director Chris Dunkley. “By partnering in this way the science that Rothamsted does becomes more relevant and practical to the wider industry, and we are very much looking forward to working together.”

 With the support of its parent company Roullier Group - which has an 8,000m2 global innovation centre in Brittany, France – Timac Agro UK has already funded a Rothamsted PhD project on the control of tillering in wheat, and is developing a demonstration platform on the facility’s 400ha farm. “We will be able to carry out trials and bring farmers along to see what we’re doing,” says Mr Cappe. “We also have access to the large conference facility and a network of like-minded agri-tech companies which will help us to extend our innovation and ability to think outside the box. This move is a key milestone to allow further development and reinforce our links in the UK agricultural market.”


3rd May 2017

 New R&D collaboration with Ghent University: novel compounds to improve drought tolerance in crops

 RoCRE tenant Plant Impact is pleased to announce a new R&D collaboration with Ghent University, Belgium.

 Estimated cereal production losses due to drought and extreme heat across the globe 1964 - 2007 reduced production by 10%*. Plant Impact estimates that in 2007, this was equivalent to nearly $16 billion of lost yield for wheat growers alone**.  The impact of drought on cereal crops like corn, rice and wheat is expected to continue to increase in the coming decades. *

 This new collaboration grants Plant Impact exclusive development access and a licensing option to a novel group of phosphonamide pyrabactin analogues.  These chemistries were derived from the investigation of biological responses in plants by prominent biologist Prof. Dr. Danny Geelen who is a Director in the Department of Plant Production and board member of CropFit, a consortium of researchers from Ghent University with expertise in biostimulants and biocontrol.  The patent-pending molecules were designed and synthesized in the laboratory of Prof Dr. ir. Christian Stevens who is Head of the Synthesis, Bioresources and Bioorganic Chemistry Research Group (SynBioC) in Ghent University’s Department of Sustainable Organic Chemistry and Technology.

 Pyrabactin analogues have been found to control the aperture of leaf stomata to reduce water loss from leaves.  This can improve the plant’s water use efficiency and increase yield in conditions of drought.  The ground-breaking compounds elicit many of the same responses as natural plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) but are more suited to be used by growers as a foliar spray.

Plant Impact’s R&D team, along with academic partners at Ghent University, is working to advance understanding of plant responses to increasing environmental stresses and develop and commercialise unique chemistries which can assist growers in mitigating yield losses due to drought.  This new agreement with Ghent University enables the Plant Impact R&D team to carry out full evaluation, glasshouse and field trials with the patent pending pyrabactin analogues, scaling-up existing pipeline projects on mitigating the effects of drought in crops including soybean and wheat, and leading to development and commercialisation of significant new crop enhancement technologies.

Dr Steve Adams, R&D Director, Plant Impact

“The creation of these novel pyrabactin analogues showcases exciting work underway at Ghent University.  I am delighted that our new agreement opens the door for Plant Impact to further the advances made by Professors Stevens and Geelen.  This will drive us forward in our objective to help improve understanding and mitigation of the effects of increasingly common drought conditions on key world crops.”

Prof Dr. ir. Christian Stevens, Ghent University

“The new pyrabactin analogues can be produced in a few synthetic steps using sustainable synthetic methodology. This will guarantee a reasonable cost for an important step forward dealing with rising temperatures in agriculture.”

*FAO ‘The impact of natural hazards and disasters on agriculture and food security and nutrition’ 2015 and Nature 529: Influence of extreme weather disasters on global crop production
** FAO global wheat production http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/ah881e/ah881e04.htm   Indexmundi average wheat price 2007 http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=wheat&months=120


31st March 2017

Hertfordshire Enviro-Tech Enterprise Zone goes live

The Hertfordshire Enviro-Tech Enterprise Zone is to go live on 1st April with the aim of creating thousands of new jobs focussing on environmental technologies.

Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership led a partnership team to bid successfully for the zone including Hertfordshire County Council, St Albans City and District Council and Dacorum Borough Council. The Zone will help to attract new green technology businesses and investment to the area with a focus on enviro-tech.

A range of Government incentives are available to attract private sector investment to the zone including business rate relief and superfast broadband.

Local Growth Minister Andrew Percy said: “Our modern Industrial Strategy is about creating the right environment for businesses to grow. The 12 new Enterprise Zones will help make sure this happens across the country.

“The Hertfordshire Enviro-Tech Enterprise Zone will create a world-class hub for businesses developing technology for a greener future. The zone is a key part of our Plan for Britain to create a stronger economy.”

 The major sites within the Zone are adjacent to each other at Maylands Business Park, to the east of the New Town of Hemel Hempstead and close to Junction 8 of the M1. These sites cover just over 78 ha in total. Two additional areas are at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) near Watford and Rothamsted Research, in Harpenden.The zone will build on the world class expertise of its industry partners: Rothamsted Research, known globally for its work in agricultural science; and BRE, a world leader in the built environment. It will also benefit from the research and development and teaching excellence of the University of Hertfordshire.

In line with Hertfordshire LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan the zone aims:

To attract and retain skills and talent in environmental research and its applications;


There are three tiers of relief. Businesses involved with environmental technologies such as sustainable construction, agri-tech, low carbon technology and renewable energy are eligible to receive up to £55,000 per year. This is available up to the maximum discount of £275,000 for the five year period. Enviro-tech supply and value chain businesses may also qualify for up to £50,000 rate relief per year. Those in the third tier, non enviro-tech businesses who can demonstrate their ‘green’ credentials, may be eligible for up to £40,000 rate relief .A full list of the type of businesses that can apply for rate relief will shortly be available to view on the Hertfordshire Enviro-Tech Enterprise Zone website. Other incentives include Government support to ensure that superfast broadband is rolled out throughout the zone. Pre-planning support and technical advice on sustainable designs and construction will be available.

 Mark Bretton, Chair of Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Chair of the Enterprise Zone Board, said: “A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes since we were awarded Enterprise Zone status to ensure that we reach this exciting stage. In that 16 month period we have undergone an extensive planning phase and signed a Memorandum of Understanding which demonstrates the partnership’s commitment to the Zone. “The LEP has successfully submitted a joint bid for a vital energy study which will further strengthen the zone’s green credentials by supporting our transition to a low carbon future. “Construction is due to start in Hemel over the next 18 months. We anticipate the first major sites to be open for business early 2019 with vital incubation space expected to become available for green entrepreneurs as early as this year.”

 Cllr Andrew Williams, Leader of Dacorum Borough Council, said: “The Hertfordshire Enterprise Zone will make a significant contribution to the cost of the transport improvements required to ensure that growth in the Maylands area, and the East of Hemel Hempstead generally, is sustainable in the medium- to long-term future. The Enterprise Zone will enable local economies to unlock key development sites, consolidate and provide infrastructure, attract business and create jobs.”

 LEP Board Member, Councillor Julian Daly, who is also Leader of St Albans City and District Council and Chair of The Green Triangle, said: “The Enviro-Tech Zone will help attract new investment and businesses to this part of Hertfordshire, helping to boost employment and training opportunities. It will also build on the profile of our world leading organisations who work in this field.”

 Businesses wishing to register their interest can contact: info@hertfordshirelep.co.uk. or visit www.hertsenterprisezone.com


24th January 2017

Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum - Summary Paper

The inaugural Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum was organised by the Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise (RoCRE) and Rothamsted Research and took place on 18-20 January on their Hertfordshire site, on the outskirts of London. The event attracted generous support from Syngenta, Bayer, the Wellcome Trust, BBSRC, the International Fertiliser Association (IFA) and AgFunder. The objective of the forum was, through the use of Open innovation best practice, to inspire key global food security solutions and was attended by around 250 delegates representing over 135 different organisations from leading European markets and as far afield as Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, Singapore and America. It included a series of workshops to help solve some of the key problems identified by industry leaders.  The new partnerships formed will be provided with ongoing support by Rothamsted, including the opportunity to become part of AgRIA, the new precompetitive ideas innovation accelerator based in the Lawes Open Innovation Hub on the Harpenden Campus.

Theme for Day One - Inspiring the Next Generation of Agri Food Innovators

 Key Message of the day - The secret to entrepreneurial success is about determination adaptability & passion, not just investment.

 BBC presenter Charlotte Smith chaired the first day of the conference. Delegates were treated to a quick-fire succession of presentations from new entrepreneurs about the secrets to success and the barriers to development. Speakers included Aponic’s Jason Hawkins-Row who has developed a soil-less growing system for fruit and vegetables, and Miha Pipan from Entomics who has found a way to turn food waste into animal feed using insects.

Will Wells from Hummingbird explained how he had recruited staff from casinos to develop algorithms for use in predicting crop diseases, while John Prewer from Airponix discussed how he had found common print heads from printers produced the best type of water droplets for hydroponic systems.

Delegates were invited to suggest the key challenges they would like to see addressed, with 22% voting for tackling resistance to pesticides and antibiotics; 15% for soil health, 14% for data and how to use it, and 12% for how to grow more food and protect the environment. Splitting into informal and energized focus groups, researchers, scientists and farmers brainstormed how to solve such major issues.

It was clear from the day that adaptability and drive are requisite attributes for successful innovation, but there are also barriers to development, including lack of investment, an over-restrictive regulatory framework, and in some cases, poor public acceptance and understanding of new technology. A successful first was rounded off with cocktails at the 17th Century Rothamsted Manor, former family home to the founder of Rothamsted Research, Sir John Bennet Lawes.

 Theme of Day Two - Defining What Open Innovation Means for Agri-Food

 Key Message for the day – the opportunity for innovation in Agri food across the global has never been so great or compelling and collaboration is the only way to succeed.

 The second day was chaired by Bianca Forte, Alliance Manager at Rothamsted Research.  George Freeman MP provided the first key note speech, highlighting the UK now had a chance to create a legislatory framework which could pave the way for a new Victorian age of applied science with global impact. “We need global inward investment to our science base to drive out exports of food and technology,” he explained.

By opening its doors to global innovators, he argued, the UK could once more nurture beneficial technologies and roll them out across the world to help developed and developing countries alike. “We are unable to a develop in a 21st Century economy unless we’re open to the science that we need, and we can’t build a global Britain on a narrow, isolationist platform.”

Mr Freeman said the government had invested heavily in the new Agri-Tech strategy, and would be unveiling its industrial strategy next week. In addition to sponsoring key sectors, it was committed to a broader programme, opening up new models of innovation, finance and infrastructure, he added. “It is my passionate belief that this country needs to produce more for less: Globally we need to double food production on the same land area using half as much water. That’s a big challenge, but it’s perfectly do-able. This (forum) has exactly the expertise and cluster of talent we need to be convening.”

Dr Christian Witt from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation explored how technology could be used to help farmers in developing nations to produce more food more sustainably. Smart phones, the internet and open access to data could all be used to speed up technological development and help nations move from subsistence farming to more productive, profitable systems. He emphasized that farmers need to be empowered with the knowledge, tools and technologies to improve their livelihoods and lift themselves out of poverty.

During his presentation Wim van Haverbeke, Professor of Strategy and Innovation Management at Hasselt University, Belgium, argued that to overcome challenges in innovation, the founding principle should be to have complementary partners, rather than competitive ones and separate commercial activities from theme development.

Jeni Tennison from the Open Data Institute stated the potential to drive efficiencies and speed up scientific development is tremendous, adding that our economy is becoming driven by data: information is the founding point on which all other things can be built. Setting the framework of how data can be used and shared is vital though, to protect sensitive information while still sharing as openly as possible to benefit the wider industry.

Energy and pragmatic ways in which people can connect were bought to life through audience participation by Roland Harwood of 100% Open, concluding that “We are just one conversation away from pretty much everything and anything.”

During a lively panel discussion after lunch on the Challenges of Working in an Open Innovation Environment chaired by Belinda Clark of Agri-Tech East, it became clear that Agri-Tech giants like Bayer are embracing open innovation, both within their own businesses and throughout the wider industry. “It is a big mindset change,” Adrian Percy, Global Head of R&D at Bayer AG commented. “But it is such an exciting time to be in Agri-Tech: open innovation is being driven by an explosion in science. And we’re moving from delivering products to delivering systems and solutions to growers, so there is more need to work with other businesses.” It was also stressed by Simon O’Brien, patent attorney at D Young & Co, that it was important to agree a policy on treatment of intellectual property. Working with mutual trust and benefit is the key to successful joint innovation, backed up with ultimate commercial success for both parties.

The forum then explored how Open innovation could be funded in a session moderated by Louisa Burwood Taylor of AgFunder. Three main options were discussed crowdfunding, equity investment, and debt, each with their pros and cons, so the importance was to find the right solution for the innovator and the investor. One panelist Katrin Burt, Managing Director of Syngenta Ventures commented that you need to get connected with the right people; “it’s a marriage rather than a date and you need to have trust and respect among the people you’re working with.”

The formalities for the day were completed by Malcolm Skingle of Glaxo Smith Kline who are using open innovation to tackle the big challenges in the medical industry, like malaria and TB in African countries. “These are hard questions, and we have to do to it in partnership,” stressed Malcolm, “It is also the right thing to do.”

Local Ales from the Farr Brewery, Wheathampstead and a fine homemade curry provided sustenance to networking into the evening, but not before Prof Angela Karp, Director of Science Innovation Engagement and Partnership at Rothamsted Research urged all to “take the clear innovative thinking they may have in the shower” into the next day’s Challenge Workshop!      

Theme of Day Three – addressing pre competitive challenges together

 Key message -  International agri-businesses, scientists and researchers committed to working together to answer some of the biggest challenges facing global food security.

The final day of the forum was chaired by Chris Dunkley, CEO of Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, who during his opening remarks, highlighted how Rothamsted was enabling innovation through investment into an innovation campus, delivering events that would change to the way in which research scientists worked together, including ROIF and the development of a unique innovation programme for development of precompetitive ideas, the AgriTech Research Innovation Accelerator, AgRIA.

Leading the first project to boost sustainable food production in Africa is Prof Steve McGrath, Head of Sustainable Soil and Grassland Systems at Rothamsted Research. Partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who will work to identify suitable areas on which to intensify agriculture and support local farmers in raising productivity.

Jon Timmis, Professor of Intelligent and Adaptive Systems at York University, and Sarah Targett, Data Workflow Support Manager at Syngenta, plans to lead a second project on sharing agricultural data to boost global biodiversity. “Every second we lose a soccer field of farmland to desertification, urbanisation and degradation,” warns Dr Targett. By sharing data and computer modelling, they hope to better co-ordinate activities to connect biodiverse areas and generate cumulative benefits.

Syngenta is also involved in a further opportunity, looking at how to improve data sharing between farmers and related industries, and manage security across different platforms. “Boosting farmer confidence in security and data management will be critical to unlocking the potential that technology holds,” says Syngenta’s Science and Technology Fellow Derek Scuffell, who is leading the project.

A fourth key challenge for many farmers and scientists is securing social acceptance for crop protection technologies. Headed by Bernard Leroux, Head of Research and Development at Bayer, this team is considering how to improve consumer understanding of new technological improvements and the benefits it can bring to wider society. “There is a public recognition of the link between science and medicine, but not between science and agriculture,” he says. “We need to address that more agricultural science will be needed in the future.”

Matthew Ryan, Curator of the Genetic Resource Collection at the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences CABI is bringing together an international team around a fifth challenge to develop understanding of the plant microbiome, leading to enhanced crop health and productivity.

The five groups broke into moderated workshops, led by the industry champions, revealing at the end of the day in a “show and tell” session the progress made and the onward activity planned.

ROIF 2018 will examine the success of each project, explore lessons learned, and consider new challenges to address going forward. Provisional dates are 17-19 January 2018.


6th December 2016

Wanted: Bright Ideas to shape the future of farming

Farmers: Do you have a bright idea which needs some help to develop? Or a project that’s already under way which could be rolled out across the industry? If so, the Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum wants to hear from you. It is seeking to bring together innovators, researchers and investors to turn bright ideas into reality to help the agricultural industry meet the challenges of the future.

“Whether it’s an animal health initiative which is working on a local basis, a new development in breeding or nutrition, or the next step in cutting edge technology, if it can help the agri-food sector move forward then we want to hear about it,” says Chris Dunkley, chief executive of the Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise.

The inaugural ROIF is a brand new concept in the agricultural industry, adopting a cross-sector collaborative approach to answering the big questions. “It isn’t about one company or research institute knowing better than another, it’s about all of us working together to effect real change,” says Mr Dunkley.

The forum, which will be held from 18 to 20 January 2017, will include a two-day conference to identify specific areas on which to focus, followed by practical workshops with key stakeholders to work out how to turn those ideas into reality.

Those projects will then be taken forward and reviewed in the next forum. “Open Innovation has delivered real benefits across other industries and it has real potential to drive the British agri-food sector into the 22nd Century,” says Mr Dunkley. “But it’s not about us setting the agenda, which is why we need to hear from those in the industry who have seen the challenges and have potential answers to them, but who need a little help to take things forward.”

The ROIF will also be focusing on knowledge transfer, to ensure that every farmer can benefit from the developments. “In a recent twitter forum with @AgriChatUK, this was a common theme that emerged throughout the discussion,” says Mr Dunkley. “There is so much valuable information already out there, the key is to make sure it’s accessible.”

The team is now matching up relevant stakeholders for each workshop, so needs all proposals to be submitted by 15 December. “Whether you are a small enterprise looking for investors, a larger business seeking research assistance, or a single farmer with entrepreneurial flair, please get in touch and help us to shape a vibrant, profitable future for all.”



5th September 2016

New Open Innovation event will shape the agri-food industry


Open discussion and innovative thinking are the key to shaping a viable food and farming industry, and a new annual event aims to facilitate just that. Drawing on successful approaches in other industries, the Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum will bring together leading scientists, farmers, manufacturers and others in the food supply chain to identify pioneering ways to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead. But in a step change away from conventional conferences, it will bring those ideas forward into practice to make a real difference on the ground. “Open innovation is all about bringing the brightest and best in the industry together, to capture and exchange ideas on the big challenges in the agri-food sector,” says Chris Dunkley, part of the organising team and chief executive of Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise. “Using online forums, conferences and workshops we can foster a collaborative approach to develop game-changing solutions to the benefit of everyone in the industry.”

The first conference will be held on 18-20 January 2017 at Rothamsted, the longest running agricultural research station in the world, which has provided cutting-edge science and innovation for over 170 years. It will be followed up with focussed workshops to develop the ideas generated into concrete opportunities for multi-partner collaboration.  “It is this practical implementation of ideas that marks the Open Innovation Forum out from other conferences,” says Mr Dunkley. “This isn’t just a talking shop; it’s designed to have real and lasting results.” Some of the challenges that are likely to be raised include climate change, antibiotic and chemical resistance, changing consumer requirements, finance, and food security. “But the agenda will be set by everyone who gets involved with the forum,” says Mr Dunkley. “We have no fixed outcomes: The aim of this annual event is to bring the industry together to find practical answers to the big questions.” After the conference a White Paper will record existing best practice and highlight specific areas of innovation where collaboration would accelerate progress for the industry as a whole. It will also identify measures to facilitate a more collaborative culture in the agri-food sector.

Rothamsted, with its background in agricultural research and knowledge transfer, is well placed to host the Open Innovation Forum, and has already secured the support and sponsorship of a number of leading organisations including Syngenta, Bayer, the BBSRC, the Wellcome Trust and the International Fertiliser Association.  The first phase of the project is to encourage discussion on The Online Blackboard, with industry experts leading individual topic areas, from pests and weeds to agri-technology and livestock nutrition. The conference will then take forward the challenges identified, with a mixture of keynote speakers, practical case studies and problem-solving group discussions. This will be followed up with the White Paper, collaboration workshops and ongoing research projects, all of which will feed into the 2018 annual event.  “The global agri-food industry faces considerable demands and opportunities in the years and decades ahead,” says Achim Dobermann, CEO and director of Rothamsted Research. “Collaboration between research, industry and farming communities is critical to finding workable solutions to these challenges. The Open Innovation Forum will help us to find where the gaps in our research lie, how different stakeholders can work together to the benefit of all, and how to put practical solutions into place. Drawing on the best thinking from around the world, this is an event not to be missed.”

For more information, visit roif.co.uk and login to the Online Blackboard to make your contribution and help shape the future of your sector.



26th August 2016

Gowan Crop Protection Limited (Gowan), an affiliate of Gowan Company, L.L.C., announced today that it has opened a new office at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, England to manage its growing business in the UK and its international operations. Gowan Comercio Internacional e Servicos Limited (GCIS), the Portugal-based entity that previously facilitated Gowan's international operations, will cease to operate and Gowan Crop Protection Limited will take on the business. The transaction is planned to take effect September 2nd, 2016.

GCIS was formed in 2004 to bring Gowan's products to the world stage and better position the company as a global player in the crop protection industry. Since then, the company's worldwide presence has developed steadily and GCIS has outgrown its existing infrastructure, resulting in the need for a more centralized and coordinated office from which to manage Gowan's international business activities. A number of factors were considered in determining where to establish domicile for the new office including tax burden and tax treaties, employee availability and skill level, business and employment law, and global accessibility, particularly from the U.S. and Europe. After much consideration it was agreed that The Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise (RoCRE) in the UK is the optimal location for this new international hub. Juli Jessen, Gowan Group CEO stated, "RoCRE presents an exceptional opportunity for us to find a home that fits our 'muddy boots' culture and we are excited to be surrounded by innovators in agriculture."

RoCRE is a unique center focused on promoting collaboration and innovation by partnering with commercial agriculture technology businesses and advancing the research process. RoCRE is part of the historical Rothamsted Research located in the Hertfordshire countryside, served by excellent transport links to London and the rest of Europe. Renowned for its expertise as the world's oldest agri-science research center, RoCRE offers a range of facilities, including state-of-the-art conference facilities, flexible laboratory space and meeting hubs, providing exciting opportunities for Gowan's international business to thrive.


27th June 2016

Agri-Tech East cluster supports pipeline of innovation

“The future is here already – it is just not evenly distributed,” Michael Lee, Managing Director of Syngenta Ventures, quoted at the final of GROW, the UK’s first national agri-tech business plan competition. He was describing how exciting business concepts are emerging internationally but as the six finalists of GROW presented, it quickly became clear that the future is concentrated here, with most of the major global trends he had identified present in the room. GROW has been developed by Agri-Tech East to encourage entrepreneurship in agri-food industry. Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, says: “Agri-Tech East’s vision is to be a globally recognised catalyst of open innovation and agri-entrepreneurship. Through GROW we are rapidly establishing a vehicle to find and support these new agri-businesses and by harnessing the power and diversity of our expert network we can also greatly increase their chances of success.” This year’s competition attracted entrants from across the country and many of the finalists already have international aspirations.

The GROW finalists are:

Winner: non-student

Finalists: non-student

Winner: student

Finalists: student


Dr Clarke explains GROW was devised to identify and support those UK agri-entrepreneurs with ideas to help agriculture and horticulture. By leveraging the highly supportive environment in the east of England Agri-Tech East will help these new agri-business grow into fully fledged companies that can bring real benefits to the industry. She says: “We are delighted by the way that so many of our members and contacts have been prepared to be mentors and invest their time and resources into working with the GROW applicants, giving them valuable industry insights, unique market intelligence and sound advice on setting up and building a new business. “The strength of a cluster is in creating connections with mutual benefit and already some of the large businesses in our ecosystem are considering commercial relationships with some of the GROW finalists.” Calum Murray of Innovate UK, which supported GROW, was delighted by the quality of the finalists: “The role of Innovate UK is to work with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy and we saw some brilliant innovations today. “All the entrepreneurs had listened to the feedback they had been given and strengthened their plans accordingly. It was good to see the level of engagement with commercial operations. These collaborative ventures are the type of projects that could potentially attract future funding from Innovate UK.” The final was hosted by Agrii, at the Throws Farm Technology Centre. David Langton, Agrii's Head of Crop Science and Stewardship, agreed that collaborative projects are a good way to fast track innovation and is running four projects supported by Innovate UK. Michael Lee also gave some clear direction to agri-tech entrepreneurs: “Have a clear value proposition that is directed at providing a clear benefit for the plant, the grower or the consumer. More or improved is good, but different is better. Don’t try and take on everyone, just show how you will dominate a niche.”

This year the support prizes have been provided by AgriGate Research Hub (NIAB), Barr Ellison LLP, Cambridge Cleantech, Cambridge Network, Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at Cambridge Judge Business School, Future Business Centre, ideaSpace City, Institute for Environmental Analytics, Norfolk Network, and Norwich Research Park.


22nd December 2015

 From all the RoCRE team at Rothamsted, wishing you happy and restful Christmas and we look forward to working with you in 2016


4th November 2015

On Monday 26th October George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment and George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences, officially launched Agrimetrics, the world’s first Big Data Centre of Excellence for the whole food system.

Agrimetrics’ founding partners, Rothamsted Research, the University of Reading, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), hosted the launch of the first Centre for Agricultural Innovation at the Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise’s Lawes Open Innovation Hub. The Centre for Agricultural Innovation was created by the UK government through Innovate UK under the UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies.

Agrimetrics will support a revolution in the use of big data science in the agri-food industry and contribute to a highly intelligent, productive, efficient, resilient and sustainable system, and will be based in the Lawes Open Innovation Hub.

The Centre, which will work with all business and universities, will engage with partners throughout the food system to enable detailed and collective understanding of the needs of farmers, food manufacturers, food retailers, consumers and the environment through the use of big data and analytical tools. This high-value collective information will allow the identification of opportunities for innovation projects among the partners.

Today (Monday 26 October), George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment and George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences, officially launched Agrimetrics, the world’s first Big Data Centre of Excellence for the whole food system.

Agrimetrics’ founding partners, Rothamsted Research, the University of Reading, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), hosted the launch of the first Centre for Agricultural Innovation created by the UK government through Innovate UK under the UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies.

Agrimetrics will support a revolution in the use of big data science in the agri-food industry and contribute to a highly intelligent, productive, efficient, resilient and sustainable system.

Professor John Crawford, interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agrimetrics, commented: “We are delighted to have been awarded £11.8m from UK Government, through Innovate UK and the Agri-tech Strategy, for the establishment of the Centre, which has been designed in consultation with more than 50 organisations from industry and academia and now has in excess of 190 companies engaged”.

The Centre, which will work with all business and universities, will engage with partners throughout the food system to enable detailed and collective understanding of the needs of farmers, food manufacturers, food retailers, consumers and the environment through the use of big data and analytical tools. This high-value collective information, will allow the identification of opportunities for innovation projects among the partners.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: “We are investing in the use of data in agriculture to transform the way crops and livestock are grown and bred. Using data we can identify new genetic traits, spray only crops with disease, and use less water and energy for modern lower input farming. The expertise we’re supporting at Agrimetrics will position the UK a world leader in this fast emerging field and improve agricultural sustainability and productivity.”

At the core of Agrimetrics is a big data science platform. The platform will include all of the necessary software tools that make possible the integration of data according to users’ needs. Datasets from around the world will be used for this purpose. By working with and up-skilling the industry on data and data analyses, Agrimetrics will be helping to de-risk the investment required by the supply-chain.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: "British farmers are increasingly making use of data to help them manage and grow their business, from predicting weather trends, to assessing soil qualities and using the very best feed types. This new technology has contributed to efficiency gains and will help us drive up the value of our food and farming industry, already worth £100 billion to our economy.This new centre, funded as part of the government's Agri-Tech Strategy, provides even greater opportunities to utilise this valuable resource. Taking ideas from the laboratory to the farm and improving productivity of farming is all part of our ambitious long-term vision for the future of farming".

Professor Richard Tiffin, Chief Scientific Officer of Agrimetrics, said: “The food and farming industries face unprecedented challenges. For example, farmers throughout the world have to make decisions for effective management of costs, ensuring returns and safeguarding the sustainable use of land. These decisions are taken in an uncertain economic environment whilst dealing with inherently difficult to predict conditions e.g. weather due to climate change. Agrimetrics will enable the gathering, processing and availability of big data in a way that will support decision making processes for the realisation of new opportunities and better use of scarce resources”.

Ian Meikle, Head of Agriculture and Food, at Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, said: “Using Big Data will give the agricultural sector the evidence-based edge. The insights from this can drive productivity and growth in the sector, benefitting the economy and consumers."

“Modern technology is flooding the food and farming world with data. The key challenge is to fairly share and efficiently process it into information farmers can use to improve the quality and quantity of their outputs in sustainable ways that benefit both themselves and society. SRUC is delighted to support Agrimetrics in this endeavour, which is in line with SRUC’s reputation as a knowledge exchange organisation” added Professor Alistair Stott, Head of Future Farming Systems Group at SRUC and member of the Agrimetrics executive team.

“The development of Agrimetrics will support innovation in agricultural research and its translation to improve the productivity, efficiency and sustainability of UK agri-food production systems. The integration of large datasets at this unprecedented scale will bring together resources from a diversity of areas including crop and animal breeding, agronomy and farming systems.


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