UFU responds to DAERA Innovation Strategy consultation

Monday, 9 March, 2020

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) welcomes the opportunity to respond to DAERA’s consultation on the proposed Innovation Strategy, saying it is encouraging to see that DAERA have placed innovation high on their agenda.

However, the UFU are disappointed with the consultation as it is too internal regarding structures and internal processes. Whilst important, the major emphasis should not be placed on these elements.

Commenting on the consultation, UFU president Ivor Ferguson said, “There are a number of significant challenges facing Northern Ireland (NI) and innovation will be vital to address these. For innovation to flourish within DAERA there needs to be a significant culture shift. The risk adverse mindset which is instilled within DAERA needs to change to allow civil servants to learn from their mistakes.

“To be innovative, innovators need to fail fast and move on, however this culture does not currently exist within DAERA. Bureaucracy is a major issue and a more streamline process is required for the process to work. It is essential for scientists to collaborate and there is a real necessity to get all players from the agri sector involved with science and innovation submissions.”

The UFU believe DAERA have been poor on innovation in the past. Mr Ferguson says in the face of Brexit there are opportunities for NI’s farming industry to become world leaders which DAERA needs to take full advantage of. To date, DAERA haven’t been good at drawing down UK wide funding and this needs to change radically in the new post Brexit era.

“DAERA should draw down funds and deliver to the private sector to enable them to innovate, and better engagement is needed within NI to facilitate this. It is clear that the lack of profitability and time pressures on farmers is hindering the adoption of innovative practices on farm. There is often no incentive to adopt new innovative practices and a lack of financial assistance for innovative technology,” said the UFU president.