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Food & drink sector: innovation infrastructure & facilities in Scotland - summary report of industry demand, existing innovation support, and options to address any identified gaps
A key strategic priority for Scotland Food & Drink (SF&D) and Scottish Enterprise (SE) is to improve the innovation performance of Scottish food and drink companies and to increase their investment in innovation and research and development (R&D). This research aimed to assess whether there are any gaps in the innovation support and, in particular, in the provision of infrastructure, facilities and equipment to support innovation in the Scottish food and drink sector. The project compared Scottish food and drink industry demand for technical support with the infrastructure (facilities and equipment) currently in place for the technical development stage of the innovation process.
A combination of desk based research, face-to-face visits and telephone interviews with stakeholders including food industry representatives and academics providing support to industry were used to compile this report.
Three major sector specific initiatives exist in Scotland that demonstrate an integrated public sector approach to supporting innovation and R&D: the RESAS Environmental & Rural Affairs research portfolio; Interface Food & Drink; and the Food & Health Innovation Service. Although these provide significant innovation support in Scotland and are starting to yield positive results, more is needed to achieve the industry strategy targets for 2017. In terms of industry demand, at a macro scale, the key areas where the food industry requires technical support are: legislation; operational support (e.g. consultancy and trouble-shooting at the factory level); packaging consultancy and testing; analytical support; and product and process development support at both the bench scale and pilot through to factory scale. Feedback from interview participants suggests that demand for support around analytical work, recipe development, new product development and ingredients generally seem to be addressed well by the existing support infrastructure but food technology and chemical engineering support was sometimes perceived to be lacking. Several participants commented that while there was a lot of support available for their business, it was somewhat disjointed and complex to access. A single point of contact to help negotiate the complexities of accessing funding and technical support from the various options available was seen as highly desirable. The study found that while facilities, equipment and technical skills for the bench scale step of the product and process development cycle appeared to be strong, facilities and equipment for the pilot stage were comparatively weak and fragmented. While significant gaps were identified in the provision of pilot scale facilities and equipment in all the major food sectors studied, significant pilot plant capability already exists outside Scotland that could be accessed in order to address the identified gaps in pilot plant facilities.
Four potential options were proposed to address the identified gaps in the pilot scale step of product and process innovation: building on the existing strengths of key institution(s) with appropriate facilities investment (single or multiple facilities investment); development of a purpose built facility that services multiple food sectors (either comprehensive or basic facility); development of multiple facilities that service specific food sectors only (comprehensive or basic facilities options); and development of partnerships or a ‘virtual’ infrastructure with existing centres which have pilot plant facilities and established technical knowledge. The report concludes that each proposed approach need not be mutually exclusive and a solution that incorporates multiple options could be a viable route forward.
Report (2 MB, pdf)
|Theme/Sector||Supporting key sectors, Food and drink, Innovation, Sectors|