In the autumn of 2023 three Agri-Tech Centres – Agri-EPI, CHAP and CIEL – formally announced their intention to merge in April 2024 to form an integrated business spanning the entire agri innovation ecosystem. This position was supported by Innovate UK, who, recognising the importance of the agri industries sector, invited the Centres to develop plans to become an Agri-Tech Catapult. This work is progressing well, and the Chief Executive Officer for the new business has now been appointed – an important step to expedite the successful delivery of the merged business, which will provide a major boost to UK agri-tech.
Dr Peter Quinn, Chair of the Transition Board responsible for the merger and the future Agri-Tech Centres, said: “I am delighted to announce that Phil Bicknell will be the CEO for the new Agri-Tech Centres business from 1 April. We conducted a comprehensive recruitment process, internally and externally, to identify the best candidate to lead the business. Phil clearly demonstrated his vision for the future, along with the experience, skills and energy he will bring to the role.
“This appointment represents an important step in our process, as we move into the final weeks before the merger. There remains a lot to do, in collaboration with our partners, but our talented teams are looking forward for the opportunity to make a real impact in the future through innovative agri-tech.”
Commenting on his appointment, Phil Bicknell, future CEO of the Agri-Tech Centres, said: “The transition to a single agri-tech business is a pivotal move to accelerate innovation for our sector and I feel privileged to have been asked to lead the organisation.
“By combining the Centres’ UK-wide capabilities, with their world-class research facilities, investment and innovation expertise and extensive networks, the new business will be a hub for UK agri-tech to thrive. This merger will simplify the landscape, be completely inclusive and make it easier to navigate. That applies to everyone we engage with, here in the UK and internationally – meaning we all work smarter and more efficiently, removing sector and technology silos. It is the catalyst to think about the bigger picture, to challenge our food and farming systems, and to think further forward.
“I firmly believe that becoming a Catapult will be the game-changer. Effectively, it elevates the profile of the agri industries – forming a strategic partnership with the government. It puts food and farming on the same level as sectors like digital, energy and satellite applications, which benefit from a long-term and joined-up focus. We’ll have critical mass and a single voice. There will be no excuses for us not being on the government’s radar and vice versa.
“This is such an exciting opportunity and, working with an excellent group of colleagues and sector partners, I can’t wait to get started.”
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