Phil Bicknell to lead new Agritech Catapult

31st January 2024 | Crops, Innovation, Livestock, R&D

The first chief executive of the AgriTech Catapult – a merger of the existing Agricultural Engineering and Precision Engineering (Agri-EPI), Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) and the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) agritech catalysts centres has been appointed.

Last autumn, Innovate UK announced the three centres would merge into a single, integrated Catapult business from April 2024. The fourth original catalyst body, data specialist Agrimetrics, will remain separate.

CHAP chair Dr Peter Quinn is chairing the Transition Board overseeing the merger. He has revealed that Phil Bicknell, currently director of CIEL, will become chief executive of the new Catapult body. “We conducted a comprehensive recruitment process, internally and externally, to identify the best candidate to lead the business,” says Dr Quinn. “Phil clearly demonstrated his vision for the future, along with the experience, skills and energy he will bring to the role.”

Mr Bicknell is a former chief economist at the NFU who moved to the AHDB to lead the market intelligence team in early 2017. He joined CIEL in 2021 as business development director, replacing Lyndsay Chapman as director last June.

“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,” says Mr Bicknell.
“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.

“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,” Mr Bicknell concludes.