Time called on horticulture innovation body


The Horticulture Innovation Partnership (HIP) is to end in its current form after an industry consultation decided that the body needs to be “radically reconfigured”. HIP, formed in 2013 to identify the technological and commercial barriers that may prevent business development and to facilitate addressing them, is undergoing a stakeholder consultation about its future.

Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) business development head Steve Tones sent a questionnaire about HIP’s future to about 100 industry stakeholders and has called for those not contacted to get in touch as soon as possible to give feedback on HIP. HIP’s future was decided at a board meeting on 10 September when the board discussed the answers to the questionnaire.

Tones said the board had given him the job of revamping the HIP. “Following my three-year review, the HIP board has asked me, subject to the approval of the new AHDB chief strategy officer, who takes up his appointment on 5 October, to put together and lead a small team to negotiate a new business plan with the key prospective funders and delivery partners.

“If the outcome is successful, the intention is that the HIP will be relaunched in radically different form at the start of the 2016-17 financial year,” he added. “The HIP communications group will continue to provide updates on progress.”

“At the HIP board meeting I presented results of the review to steering group stakeholders and funders. HIP will be radically reconfigured. Lots of functions will be transferred almost by default into other organisations, notably AHDB. There will be radical remodelling of the funding proposition and delivery model.”

He added that he expects external contracting partners to fund HIP and said there was “no will to see it kept together. There was never enough resources to do what was required. A few said they don’t know what it is, let’s get rid of it, but most recognised its core function and that needs to be driven by an independent entity.”

Tones said the new HIP will run on a partnership approach with Defra, Innovate, AHDB and others on board, and it will have stripped out bureaucracy. “We’ll keep HIP as an independent entity but not in a corporate sense. It will move to a more dynamic partnership model. Funding that is the next step.”

An ornamentals research and development strategy, being written by the RHS and HTA, is underway and being aligned to the Ornamentals Round Table Action Plan. The strategy will be published in late October. The Partnership, which includes the AHDB, HTA, NFU, RHS, SCI, East Malling Trust and the Potato Council, has two part-time staff, Mary Bosley and Mark Tatchell, who have left HIP after finishing their contracts.

HTA horticulture head Raoul Curtis-Machin, who is writing the HIP ornamentals R&D strategy, said it is already “starting to bear fruit. There is a research call out from NERC for green infrastructure evaluation methods, which is something that the HIP has been talking about to research funders and is also part of the round table asks.

“This is good news because it means that the major research funders recognise the societal benefits of ornamental horticulture — environmental and health and well-being. It indicates that our strategies, action plans and patient conversations are working,” said Curtis-Machin.

“Creating a green infrastructure evaluation toolkit means that planners will be able to measure the benefits of planting and green infrastructure in planning applications and therefore measure them again when new housing developments have been completed. This will ensure that promised planting and landscaping gets carried out and that planners and landscape architects will have a simple way to measure the benefits.

“At the moment, plants and landscaping are often cut or scaled back from development projects and there is no straightforward way for planners to ensure that this doesn’t happen, thus our industry suffers.”

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