Dr. Stephen Axford

Dr. Stephen Axford Head of the UK Agri-Tech Strategy, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Stephen has led the UK Government’s work to develop and implement a new Strategy for Agricultural Technologies since January 2013. He has established a new cross-cutting unit that spans the Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and draws on resources from across Whitehall, including the Department for International Development (DFID) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), as well as Innovate UK and the Research Councils.

Agri-Tech is a complex sector which is part of the new Government’s wider approach to engaging with Industry, and has also been one of the Eight Great Technologies since early 2013. The period from 2013 to date has seen development of the underpinning business case to secure government investment, the creation of a new sector council to provide leadership and direction, and the construction of a programme, in partnership with Innovate UK, Research Councils and others, to deliver both the short and long-term aims of the strategy. These include improved translation and exploitation of research, greater innovation throughout the agri-food supply chain, a more skilled workforce, increasing investment in the sector, growth in exports, and sustainable increases in agricultural productivity, both in the UK and globally.

In October 2013, the programme launched the Agri-Tech Catalyst, to support joint industry-academic research and development, and is now on course with plans to establish a small number of UK-wide Centres for Agricultural Innovation. As part of Budget 2015, Stephen has overseen the announcement of the first Centre, focused on Agri-informatics and Sustainability Metrics, which begins its work this year. He is currently working with government and industry partners on the commercial arrangements for the remaining Centres, which it is hoped will be launched by early 2016. Within BIS, Stephen has previously been head of strategy, and head of science and society. As a civil servant he has held a variety of posts in Defra and the Ministry of Defence, before joining BIS. Prior to joining government, he pursued an academic career as a physical chemist and chemical engineer.