UK businesses get expert help to revolutionise food production

From prolonging shelf life to developing new sources of protein, more than 6,000 British food and drink companies can now take advantage of new technologies and expert advice at the touch of a button, helping revolutionise the production of their food.

The new Food Innovation Network (FIN), launched by Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom, will give ambitious British entrepreneurs unparalleled access to first-class facilities, such as test kitchens and laboratories to help them launch new products onto the market.

Through an online portal, businesses will be able to tap into expert advice on complex issues such as intellectual property and developing new technology. A network coordinator will also be appointed to act as a ‘matchmaker’, joining up businesses with the expertise they need for any aspect of their business – from new packaging to waste management.

Photo credit: John Innes Centre (photography Andy Davis)

Launching the network at Sand Hutton in York, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: "Our thriving food and drink sector has already helped make Britain more globally competitive through its incredible innovation.

"The UK’s food and farming sector generates over £100 billion a year and employs one in eight people, with the food manufacturing sector bigger than cars and aerospace combined.

"From extending the shelf life of our food to increasing the amount of Vitamin D in our eggs, the Food Innovation Network will help make the sector as forward-looking as possible and push the boundaries of British food production."

Defra - alongside the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) - appointed the Knowledge Transfer Network as the coordinator to take forward the project.

Simon Baty, FIN Co-ordinator from the Knowledge Transfer Network said: "The Food Innovation Network will identify the innovation needs of agri-food businesses and connect them with research experts, so they can transform their superlative science into valuable, innovative and commercial products."

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC chief executive, said: "The UK’s bioscience is truly world leading; the network will help industry access this expertise and join up research and innovation across agricultural and food industries.

"We’re particularly excited to see the launch of a pilot programme to target academic and industrial partnering in research, which addresses key challenges in food, nutrition and health."

David Kerfoot, vice chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership said: "Two of the biggest global challenges we face in the next 100 years are food and energy security. Innovation is essential to address this.

"York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding is ideally placed to be at the heart of this, demonstrating world class business, internationally renowned assets and industry on a global scale to provide the resilience and opportunity the UK so desperately needs."

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