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Food & Drink sector gets £10 million support

26 March 2012

A new support network set up to drive research and innovation in Scotland’s food and drink sector is injecting £10 million into the industry over the next five years. Interface – Food and Drink will work in partnership with academics and businesses to exchange knowledge in an industry that generates nearly £10 billion for the Scottish economy annually.

Scotland’s food and drink industry is a key sector for the economy, employing in excess of 360,000 people. Manufacturing contributes £3.9 billion to the sector GVA with many Scottish brands now household names within the UK. Scottish food and drink exports hit a record high of £4.51 billion in 2010, with fish and seafood exports alone growing by 12 per cent, climbing to £620 million.

The network is being led by the University of Aberdeen, the University of Abertay Dundee, and Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University, together with Interface - The knowledge connection for business. The free service will be available to companies throughout Scotland.

Helen Pratt, national co-ordinator for Interface - Food and Drink comments: “We aim to stimulate innovation through introducing a step-change to the way businesses manage R&D and the best way to accomplish this is through multi collaborative projects. We work with all types and sizes of companies within the food and drink sector and not only project manage, but provide vital funding to achieve successful commercial outcomes.”

One company that has seen the benefits of working with academia is UWI Technology, the Scottish firm behind the award-winning packaging label that indicates a warning when a product has gone past its ‘use within’ date once opened. Interface introduced inventor Pete Higgins to academics at Heriot Watt.

“Working with academia has been a vital stage in bringing the product to market. For small firms like UWI, having access to the knowledge and experience of academics is essential to identifying and solving a whole range of issues such as product development or technical evaluation. I have no doubt that the product would not be at its current stage without support from the team at Heriot Watt.”

The UWI Label knows when a container is opened for the first time, activates a green time-line to show how long it’s been opened, and once past the recommended “use within” period the UWI Label time indicates red as a warning that it is now no longer safe to use or consume.

Professor Stephen Logan, Senior Vice-Principal at the University of Aberdeen, has been involved in the development of the programme. He said “Interface Food and Drink is the result of a great deal of research looking into how the industry can work and benefit from research and development. Scottish Universities have world class expertise and this network enables companies not only to have access to this enviable resource but to collaborate with many partners on a whole range of disciplines.”

Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is to invest £2.64m over five years in the network. In total, just under £10.6m of cash and "in-kind" investment will be given to the project. The 17 partner universities will contribute £3.1m of in-kind support, with trade associations such as Scotland Food and Drink and participating companies also providing £4.84m of cash and in-kind support.

Mark Batho, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “The Funding Council is delighted to invest in this unique network, which will lead to great benefits for Scotland’s food and drink industry and the economy. This is the first time we have made an investment of scale in both staff and specific industry projects in a key sector. This exciting network includes almost every Scottish university and will strengthen and increase demand for the excellent research of our universities.”

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