The first Scottish Centre for Food Development & Innovation was launched at Queen Margaret University (QMU), on December 9, with more than 100 food industry guests in attendance.
One on-campus firm, Advanced Microwave Technologies (AMT), provided a demonstration of its machinery. AMT is emerging as one of the world’s most innovative users of microwave expertise in its application to the food and drink sector.
Representatives from some of Scotland’s leading food and drink businesses that QMU has worked with also showcased their products.
“Scotland’s food and drink sectors are internationally recognised for their quality; many of the most famous products having a long history and unique sense of identity,” said Richard Lochhead, cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and the environment, at the opening.
‘Helping companies diversify’
“The work of the centre is helping those companies evolve to meet new demand, develop new products and diversify into new markets, particularly lucrative export opportunities.
“Despite having a long history of collaboration with the food and drink industry, in the past three years alone, QMU’s innovation based engagements with SMEs in the sector have generated an estimated extra £5.7M for the businesses it has worked with.”
QMU has provided support for a variety of commercial food ventures. They include iQ Chocolate in Stirling, Gusto artisan dressings, marinades and oil and vinegars in Leith, Edinburgh; and Black & Gold rapeseed oil and Belhaven Fruit Farm in East Lothian.
The university has also been heavily involved in working with the food industry to reformulate products to make them healthier. Its facilities include a dedicated microbiology laboratory; fully-equipped sensory suite; dedicated chemistry laboratory and a technology room for industry to test new technology.
Its food innovation experts also work on identifying innovative sources of raw materials to produce novel, sustainable ingredients, sourcing ingredients to improve processing, nutritional analysis and shelf-life testing.
Dr Jane McKenzie, QMU academic food and drink lead, said: “We’re really excited to have reached this significant milestone in the development of QMU’s Scottish Centre for Food Development & Innovation. Facilities like this are currently unavailable elsewhere in Scotland, so research work is often sent to England or Northern Ireland instead.”
Speaking at the launch, James Withers, ceo of industry body Scotland Food & Drink, added: “Relationships between the industry and Scotland’s universities are critical. My ambition is that this new centre will provide producers with intelligence and support, to help them create exciting new products and find new customers.
“With Scottish food and drink exports up 50% since 2007 and sales within the UK up by more than a third, we have real momentum. But competition is always fierce so innovation will be fundamental to staying ahead of the pack.”