PROJECTS which improve the UK's plant health and biosecurity could benefit from new grant funding of nearly £1 million. 

From today, businesses can apply for a share of a new pot of up to £800,000 launched by Defra and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to devise new solutions and technologies to protect the country's woodlands and trees from regulated plant diseases and pests. 

Ministers say the fund will develop innovations to enhance plant health inspections, both at the border and in-land, pest and disease surveillance and management of infected commodities.


Lord Benyon, Defra Minister for Biosecurity, said: “Plants and trees provide £15.7 billion to society annually in the UK and it is imperative that they are protected and the UK remains at the forefront of emerging technologies to do this. 

“The UK is proud to be a global leader in plant biosecurity, and this new investment is part of the Government’s commitment to invest in new technologies, enhance biosecurity and boost the economy which will ensure protection for our plants and trees.”

Types of activities eligible for the grant include:

  • Developing innovative technologies and practices to enhance border inspections of traded plants for planting and plant commodities, including wood and wood products, improving sampling accuracy, detection rates of regulated pests, time and resource efficiency of inspectors.
  • Enhancing in-land inspections of plants in nurseries, recently planted sites or the wider environment, through the application of innovative technologies and practices to enable pest and pathogen detection in the field, reducing the risk of outbreaks.
  • Utilising passive and scanning surveillance approaches to provide timely and cost-effective methods for detecting pests and diseases in different landscape settings.
  • Managing the supply of potentially infected or infested plants and plant commodities pre and post border by presenting alternative treatments to destruction of the plants following detection of a quarantine organism, reducing financial losses whilst maintaining biosecurity. 

Professor Guy Poppy, interim executive chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), said: “As the UK’s major public funder of plant science research, BBSRC’s investments in a portfolio of fundamental and translational research ensure we maintain a dynamic and productive national capability in plant health and biosecurity." 

Professor Nicola Spence, Defra chief plant health officer, said: “Maintaining strong national biosecurity is hugely important, and today’s announcement will help tackle the threat of plant pests and diseases by innovating border and in-land plant health inspections, pest and disease surveillance and infection control. 

“I encourage as many organisations as possible to apply over the next six weeks to play their part in protecting the UK’s plants and trees from pests and diseases.” 

This announcement follows the launch of the Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain earlier this year which set out a five-year vision for plant health, consisting of an action plan to secure national biosecurity, protect native species and drive economic growth.

The application deadline is December 20, 2023, with contracts awarded for successful proposals from April 1, 2024, for up to 12 months.

Individual projects will have total costs between £20,000 and £150,000, inclusive of VAT.

For more information on the fund and to apply visit UKRI Funding Finder: Opportunities – UKRI.