It will provide a free service which aims to bring academia and businesses closer together, while providing funding to commercialise research.
The network will look to help firms in all areas including engineering, supply chain development, waste management, food science, packaging design and marketing.
Helen Pratt, national co-ordinator for Interface – Food and Drink, said:“We aim to stimulate innovation through introducing a step-change to the way businesses manage research and development and the best way to accomplish this is through multi-collaborative projects.
“We work with all types and sizes of companies within the food and drink sector and not only project manage, but provide vital funding to achieve successful commercial outcomes.”
The organisation was awarded £10.6M over five years by the Scottish Funding Council at the start of this year. The funding will be in the form of a £2.64M cash grant for investment in research, with the remaining money coming from“in-kind” investment – such as use of facilities, management, time and raw materials used in testing.
Mark Batho, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said:“The Funding Council is delighted to invest in this unique network, which will lead to great benefits for Scotland’s food and drink industry and the economy.
“This is the first time we have made an investment of scale in both staff and specific industry projects in a key sector.”
Trade associations – including Scotland Food and Drink – will contribute a further £4.84M in cash and in-kind support over five years.
The 17 partner universities have also contributed a combined £3.1M of in-kind support for the five years.
Professor Stephen Logan, senior vice-principal at the University of Aberdeen, – involved in the development of the programme – said:“Interface Food and Drink is the result of a great deal of research looking into how the industry can work and benefit from research and development.”
One firm helped by Interface – Food and Drink before this round of funding is UWI Technology. The network introduced the firm to academics at Heriot Watt University to help it develop a packaging label that indicated when a product was out-of-date by turning from green to red.
“Working with academia has been a vital stage in bringing the product to market,” said UWI chief executive, Pete Higgins.
The network includes: the University of Aberdeen, the University of Abertay Dundee, and Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh.