The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is launching a new digital platform to help small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) access the support needed to implement new innovations to help them become more efficient and productive.
The Food and Drink Innovation Gateway tool is to be launched at Defra’s National Food and Drink Summit in London, taking place today (09.03.2023).
The digital ‘one-stop shop’ will connect SMEs with commercial authorities, universities and government-backed programmes that can offer them independent advice and expertise around adopting new and existing innovative technologies.
According to the FDF, some of the experts on hand will be from research centres and higher education, such as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the University of Lincoln. They can provide businesses with a free consultation and production line talk, it says, to address areas of improvement, provide possible solutions, and help companies take steps to de-risk investments and identify how to put new technologies into practice.
Some of the advice on offer include how to adopt automation, AI and digital technologies and how these can be used to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste and address ongoing labour shortages in the industry.
The FDF’s chief executive Karen Betts said in a statement: “The UK’s food and drink businesses are the lifeblood of our homes and our communities. But these companies are often small and struggle to find the bandwidth and the right support to invest in the right technologies and innovation to help them grow to their full potential.“
The tool has been created to give food and drink companies a “much-needed ‘single point of entry’”, to help them recognise the value of investing in new technologies, Betts explained. “It will help to match businesses with the right support, which already exists in a range of different organisations across the UK but which can be difficult to identify and access.”
“I’m proud of the very practical support that FDF’s Gateway will offer to our dynamic sector, helping food and drink businesses to grow and thrive, and to remain at the heart of advanced manufacturing and a green economy.”
The initiative has already been piloted with FDF member companies and is now open for all food and drink manufacturers in Britain.
Food and Farming Minister Mark Spencer MP also added: “The food and drink industry is a cornerstone of our economy and the largest manufacturing sector in the UK. SMEs are at the heart of this, making up 98% of food and drink manufacturers and employing 146,000 people across the country.
“They are global leaders in innovation and I am delighted the FDF’s new Food and Drink Innovation Gateway will be open to them, making it easier for them to adopt new technology.”
Led by the FDF, the Food and Drink Innovation Gateway tool was developed in collaboration with the Manufacturing Technology Centre and Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre – institutes which are part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult; Interface; the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University, Cranfield University and the National Centre for Food Manufacturing at University of Lincoln.