£2m in funding available to innovative food and drink businesses in south east England - Fruit & Vine

£2m in funding available to innovative food and drink businesses in south east England

Growing Kent & Medway has announced its second round of collaborative research and development grants worth £2,000,000 aimed at innovative businesses in the horticultural food and drink supply chain.

Rob James, technical director at Thanet Earth, received a grant for a project aiming to increase levels of iron and vitamin C in tomato crops and making them more resilient to climate change.

The competition welcomes projects that contribute to the transition to net zero and help improve productivity and sustainability across the horticultural food and drink sector. Businesses in the Kent and Medway area can apply for grants from £50,000 and £350,000 to fund up to 40% of their project costs.

In order to be successful, projects must show potential for positively impacting the economy of the Kent and Medway region. Businesses that receive the grant are also expected to deliver social value to the community.

Areas of focus for projects can include horticultural production, food and drink processing, fresh produce packaging, and technological development. All businesses applying for a grant are required to partner with a Kent-based research organisation, such as:

  • NIAB
  • University of Greenwich
  • University of Kent
  • Canterbury Christ Church University.

The competition is open until 19th October 2022 and applications can be submitted via the Innovation Funding Service. The page also provides further information on eligibility, scope, and how to apply.

Dr Nikki Harrison, programme director at Growing Kent & Medway, said: “Supporting businesses to innovate is vital to creating a more sustainable and resilient food and drink sector in the UK.

“Whether it’s developing alternative sustainable packaging options, advancing robotics to improve crop production or identifying innovative uses for waste by-products, we’re looking to support novel ideas throughout the whole supply chain.”

So far, six innovative businesses received a share of the £1 million funding pot during the first round of the competition that took place in June. Successful proposals included a project that looked at ways of growing higher quality cherries and developing new foods from cherry waste.

Rob James, technical director at Thanet Earth, was also among the grant recipients. His project was aimed at increasing levels of iron and vitamin C in tomato crops and making them more resilient to climate change.

Mr James explained: “Projects like this can be expensive, and also highly complex. They carry an element of risk where it may not deliver the results we hope for. Accessing funding helps us to de-risk from a commercial point of view, so we are able to go and do more challenging research that will move us forward as a business and as an industry.

“Partnering with a local organisation like NIAB means we are also helping to improve the research capabilities and knowledge in our crop and sector. That will help us to continue to innovate and adapt to change through future collaboration.”

Growing Kent & Medway’s funding initiative is supported by UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund.

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