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Innovation at Rothamsted Research

25 May 2021

The WE Lead Food Programme enabled me to visualise the changes required to improve our tech transfer activities and create a clear plan to test our assumptions and develop a new type of intervention that would allow our team to become more effective. The training helped me build the confidence required to progress despite the uncertainty and challenges encountered along the way. I was also hugely impressed by the network that has been developed by the programme managers on the back of the training. I have become part of this vibrant group of women from all backgrounds and operating in different segments of the industry and in other areas of the sector too (academia, government, NGOs). I would thoroughly recommend the EIT programme to other tech transfer professionals.

Rothamsted Research, the longest established agricultural institute in the world is transforming the management of its innovations.

Bianca Forte, a technology transfer professional at Rothamsted used the knowledge that she gained from participating in the WE Lead Food Programme, funded by EIT Food, to design and pilot a new process to help scientists identify results with potential for commercial exploitation and to develop and implement more strategic plans to translate them to impact.

The experience gained from running the pilot helped the Institute’s CEO develop a strategic plan for capacity building in this space. “Innovations can arise at any point during a research programme. Devising a process for continuous strategic analysis of our science in relation to their potential for creating impact results in a stronger pipeline of ideas for exploitation. The identification of the best routes forward at an early stage, whether through collaboration with industry, via licensing or start-ups and spin-outs, is of great value for efficient management of our innovations”, says CEO Professor Angela Karp. “This process complements other initiatives we have introduced which provide entrepreneurial training and mentoring to our scientists to accelerate innovation”.

Bianca’s pilot with Smart Crop Protection, a £6.3M research programme funded through the UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, led to the identification of 78 IP assets with potential for commercial exploitation. These include sensors for pest detection, resistance diagnostic toolkits, modelling applications, agroecological approaches for pest management and potential new modes of action and molecules for chemical control, plus R&D tools to accelerate innovation. The majority of these outputs are very early stage and funding applications in the region of £13M are being developed to move priority opportunities along the Technology Readiness Level framework. A particular success has been the spinning out of Pherosyn, a company set up by Bianca’s colleagues through SHAKE Climate Change, to commercialise one of the outputs.

Bianca Forte said: “I am overjoyed by the level of engagement of my scientific colleagues, senior management and fellow tech transfer professionals with this pilot. The WE Lead Food training was invaluable in helping me develop the skills to lead the analysis. I look forward to seeing the commercialisation of many of the ideas coming out of Rothamsted over coming years”

More effective management and translation of scientific results into new products and services will ultimately deliver long-term impact for society.

A range of approaches will be deployed by Bianca and her colleagues to deliver impact from the identified outputs, from co-development with industry, to in-house development towards licensing and exploitation through start-ups and spin-outs. If you are an organisation interested in crop protection innovation, contact to find out about opportunities in their pipeline.