UK-China Research and Innovation Partnership
25 Nov 2015



Agricultural science and technology is being increasingly driven by the global challenges of rising populations, rapid development of emerging economies and global shortages of land, water and energy.




Earth Observation, Modelling and Autonomous Systems for Agri-Tech in China

Agricultural science and technology is being increasingly driven by the global challenges of rising populations, rapid development of emerging economies and global shortages of land, water and energy. These challenges are made even more difficult in light of the impact of a changing climate and other factors.

The UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) along with the National Natural Science Foundation of China is launching a call for proposals that will advance scientific research in space applications such as remote sensing, information acquisition, data processing, modelling and simulation, to target challenges faced by the Chinese agricultural sector. 

Remote sensing from satellites, aerial and high altitude platforms already play a large role in monitoring of the land surface, however trade-offs often have to be made between spectral, spatial and temporal resolution.  Satellite positioning and robotic technologies can complement remote sensed measurements through their application in ground based sensors.

Together these technologies have the potential to enable a range of practical applications, under the overall theme of sustainable intensification including:

  • Improved detection and monitoring of crop productivity;
  • Early identification and monitoring of disease;
  • Farm system management and optimisation; and
  • Monitoring of farming methods on a regional and national level.

This joint call aims to combine the UK and China’s research strengths in satellite technologies and expertise in satellite-derived data products to solve fundamental scientific and technology barriers and provide research-driven decision making tools for farmers and policy makers.

The UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) are pleased to announce a call for collaborative proposals in space applications for Agri-Tech.

STFC has made available a budget of £4m to fund eligible UK researchers, with matched equivalent funding from NSFC. STFC funds will specifically be used to support UK researchers, while NSFC funds will support Chinese researchers. For UK applicants, the maximum budget available per proposal is £1,000,000. Chinese applicants should contact NSFC regarding their budget allocation. Applicants do not need to request equal amounts from China and the UK, but the amounts should reflect the difference in covered costs and local prices. The funders also expect the costs on each side to accurately reflect the research effort to be carried out.

It is expected that up to 4 projects will be funded, spanning one or more of the research themes listed below. Projects will be up to three years in duration and are expected to start on 1 st April 2016.

This call forms part of STFC’s Newton Fund activities and therefore requires the UK component of projects to meet Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) criteria alongside their scientific objectives. The purpose of the call is to build on the combined strengths of academic research groups within China and the UK to work together on collaborative multi-disciplinary research that will support long-term sustainability of Chinese agriculture.

Applicants are invited to submit collaborative research proposals comprising eligible researchers from the UK and China. Proposals will be required to have at least one Principal Investigator from UK and one Principal Investigator from China.

This call for proposals will require applicants to work together in partnership on research projects where each country’s component is funded by the participating agency in their country. Eligibility to apply is determined by each agency’s eligibility rules and the nature of the resources requested must also adhere to each agency’s guidelines. Further information is presented below.

The deadline for receipt of full proposals is: 17 th December 2015: 16:00 GMT for UK applicants and 16:00 CST for Chinese applicants.”


Expected Timeline:

Call opens
13th November 2015 

Closing date to submit proposal



17th December 2015

  • 16:00 GMT for UK Applicants
  • 16:00 local time for Chinese applicants 
Joint Panel meetsMarch 2016 
Successful proposals​​ announcedMarch 2016​

Grants commencing1 April 2016








Further information:

STFC Agri-science and Agri-tech

STFC Funding Calls 

Research Councils UK Newton Fund


For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries