The University of Aberdeen has welcomed the award of up to £2.64m over five years from the Scottish Funding Council towards the total package cost of £10.58m for a new Scottish Universities Industry Innovation Network for Food and Drink.
The award goes to a consortium of Scottish universities coordinated by the University of Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt University and the University of Abertay together with Interface – The knowledge connection for business on behalf of the 17 partners higher education institutions (HEIs).
The Innovation Network is collaboration amongst all 17 HEI institutions, working in partnership with business and their associated trade bodies. It will encourage and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration across Scotland’s universities to provide the strong research and development base needed by the food and drink sector in Scotland as its companies grow from strong regional bases to become innovative world leaders.
This follows the launch in February this year by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead of a £4 million project to help Scottish food and drink companies tap into global opportunities in the rapidly expanding health and nutrition sector.
Scottish Enterprise is funding the Food and Health Innovation Service, which will help 400 Scottish companies over the next five years to access Scotland’s leading research in food and health to develop and launch new or improved products.
The Innovation Network announced today targets this upstream research, helping universities collaborate on the research and academic support that these companies need as they develop new and improved products for a global market.
The funding from the Scottish Funding Council will be used to create business development specialists, pump-prime projects, fund researchers, studentships and industry placements, and host engagement activities with companies.
Welcoming the award, Professor Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said: “A university research base which is joined up across Scotland and reflects the food and drink sector’s requirements should be attractive to ambitious businesses and has the potential to stimulate further exchange of knowledge between research and business.
“I am delighted that the strength of Aberdeen has been recognised in being tasked with leading this collaboration. This is exactly the reason for the merger between the University and the Rowett Institute in 2009, to bring together the skills and experience to position Aberdeen, and Scotland, as a world leader in nutrition and food science and the support for a thriving national food and drink sector.”
Professor John Palfreyman, Head of the School of Contemporary Sciences at the University of Abertay Dundee, said:
"This £10 million investment in Scotland's food and drink industry builds on work at Abertay University with our food programmes and Food Innovation at Abertay consultancy, which has worked closely with a large number of small- and medium-sized Scottish businesses. Abertay University is also host to the Scotland Food & Drink Skills Academy, which provides a central role developing the skills Scotland's food and drink industry needs to continue growing.
"Abertay University has already been able to link a whole set of novel skills together to benefit Scotland's food and drink industry, including using X-ray CT scanning to analyse the internal structures of food, using eye-tracking to understand more about how people shop, and applying advanced chemistry and biochemistry to develop novel health food products.
"This new investment will help create a Translational Innovator post at Abertay University, to allow even closer working between the food and drink industry and researchers at a range of Scottish universities including Abertay. The new investment also links to the internationally-renowned strengths Abertay University has in environmental science, including waste management and the production of biofuels.
"We commend the Scottish Funding Council for this positive investment and look forward to working with all the partners to continue to grow Scotland's food and drink industry for the future."