Funded by development agency Scottish Enterprise, the project will involve a £4.4m investment over 5 years to ensure that the Scottish food and drink industry "reacts to global trends in food and health", and that industrial players in the country develop health-related products.
Scottish Enterprise research shows that, while native firms recognise the potential of the health and nutrition market, they lack the research and development and food technology expertise to take advantage of new opportunities.
Accordingly, the investment - speaheaded by academe and industry - will provide over 400 Scottish companies with access to food technology specialists and encouraging them to spend more on research and development (R&D) in a bid to increase the nation's competitiveness in fortified and functional foods, naturally healthy products (such as fruit and vegetables, oil fish) and 'better for you' products with reduced fat, sugar, salt, etc.
Historically low investment levels
Scottish Enterprise said that innovation in Scottish food and drink had historically been lower than the UK national average, with the current R&D sector spend accounting for just 1.5% of Scottish totals.
Industry leadership organisation Scottish Food and Drink aims to increase the turnover of participating companies to a combined £80m in five years, and chief executive Paul McLaughlin said:
"Scotland has a huge amount of world-renowned research, but a poor track record of turning that into products that hit the shelves. This project is our way of helping that to happen so a business is much more likely to get a project through a commercialisation stage."
Thus, the project is part of a wider industry target to equalise funding levels with those of other countries in the union, contributing to a wider ambition to increase the sector spend from 0.25 per cent to 0.75 per cent of Scottish GVA (Gross Value Added), where this figure is a measure of the economic contibution of each individual producer in a country.
Linking industry and academe
Professor Philip Richardson, head of food manufacturing technologies at food research organisation at Campden BRI (which heads a consortium that includes players such as the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute and Food Processing Faraday Partnership) told NutraIngredients.com thatparticularly promising sectors within Scottish foods - that could also realise functional advantages - included "native raw materials such as berries, oats, and fish".
He added: "If you look at Scottish innovation within the food sector, then you have world-renowned institutes such as the Rowett that have a great reputation for producing new products. Our role is very much at the interface between academe and industry. Our focus is on broader manufacturing processes and in providing a linkage with food firms, developing solutions accordingly.
"We have a wealth of experience with ingredients, product formulation, and emerging and established processing technologies - and can call upon our experts in consumer and marketplace studies, sensory science, food microbiology and chemistry, safety assurance and hygiene, and food and drink legislation.