Improving food safety research and building a sustainable business
3 mins read
Our joint venture with Defra is increasing revenues and building new products and services
Fera is a UK government agency that provides vital scientific research to help improve our understanding of food and environmental safety and quality. Since 2009, Fera has helped to shape policies that ensure agricultural and food safety through environmental safety, inspection and regulation.
The work carried out by Fera is vital to public safety and our national biosecurity, but it also comes at a price, with an annual operating budget of more than £35 million in 2015. Historically, 75% of this funding was provided by the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Under a public competitive process in 2015, Capita won the opportunity to acquire Fera, as part of a joint venture agreement with Defra. The partnership brought together our commercial experience in managing large organisations with Fera’s technical expertise and knowledge of the agriculture-food-environment sector.
Our goal was to transform Fera from a struggling agency into a sustainable, financially stable business that could deliver world-class services to state and private sector clients around the world.
An early priority was to help Fera increase revenues to make the business more financially stable. We worked closely with Fera to create a formal business development process that made it easier to identify potential new products and services, with a consistent process to bring those ideas to market.
In 2017, we carried out a complete review of Fera’s business, including conducting surveys among employees, managers and customers. This insight was used to formulate a rebranding programme that included a new strategy and mission statement.
By 2018, revenue at Fera had increased to £40m, all KPIs for service delivery had consistently been exceeded, and employee satisfaction had increased by 70 base points. Just three years later, sales at Fera have jumped, with income from private sector clients increasing from 15% to 50% of total revenue.
Other key benefits include:
- Moving from a loss to delivering a 12% net profit margin in the last financial year, by generating commercial revenues
- Becoming financially self-sustaining, meaning the State receives the same or better service without additional investment from the government.
- Increased engagement with the private sector has created new opportunities to build new services and do things differently across the food safety and agricultural-technology world.
Fera is now a mature laboratory and a successful commercial business. The agency has a strong business plan with exciting new products and services in the pipeline. The next stage of our transformation strategy is to spin out small enterprises using some of the intellectual property within Fera. At the same time, we hope to build more international capability through partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.