CEO for new Agri-Tech Centres announced

previously CEO, CIEL

The three UK “Agri-Tech Centres” set to merge this April have announced the appointment of Phil Bicknell as CEO of the combined organisation.

The Agri-Tech Centres are government-supported bodies set up with the aim of fostering innovation in agriculture and, since 2022, aquaculture. The three are Agri-EPI (Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre), CHAP (Crop Health & Protection) and CIEL (the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock). Aquaculture comes under CIEL’s remit.

The three organisations formally announced their intention to merge in April 2024 to create an integrated business spanning the entire “agri-innovation ecosystem”.

Phil Bicknell takes up his new post on 1 April. He joined CIEL in 2021 and was made Director in June 2023, at which time he joined the Transition Board for the merger. Prior to CIEL Bicknell has had a varied career across food and farming. He led the 50 strong market intelligence team at the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), equipping farmers and processors with the insight to manage market volatility, profitability and policy change.

He was Chief Economist at the National Farmers Union (NFU), spearheading the evidence to support a range of lobbying activity. Other roles include specialising in agri-trade issues at the US Department of Agriculture and advising a range of agribusiness clients with Bidwells. Bicknell grew up on the family livestock farm and has a degree in agricultural economics.

Phil Bicknell said: “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.

“By combining the Centres’ UK-wide capabilities, with their world-class research facilities, investment and innovation expertise and extensive networks, the new business will be a hub for UK agri-tech to thrive.”

Dr Peter Quinn, Chair of the Transition Board responsible for the merger and the future Agri-Tech Centres, said: “We conducted a comprehensive recruitment process, internally and externally, to identify the best candidate to lead the business. Phil clearly demonstrated his vision for the future, along with the experience, skills and energy he will bring to the role.

“This appointment represents an important step in our process, as we move into the final weeks before the merger. There remains a lot to do, in collaboration with our partners, but our talented teams are looking forward to the opportunity to make a real impact in the future through innovative agri-tech.”

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