The Knowledge Innovation Technology Exchange (KITE) project was set up with a target of adding £10M to the turnover of participating companies by 2014, but had already exceeded this by the end of 2012.
KITE is run by two Welsh food centres – Zero2Five Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University and Food Technology Centre, Coleg Menai – and is funded by the EU and Welsh government.
It facilitates partnerships between the food centres and Welsh SMEs with affiliates (food technology graduates and people with relevant food industry experience) being placed into businesses to assist them in a range of ways.
£80M a conservative figure
David Lloyd, director of Zero2Five Food Industry Centre, said that £80M was a conservative figure for the contribution to participants’ turnovers.
He explained: “It can be a series of things that add to turnover. It can be new product development but it can also be putting technical systems in place through graduates which allow small to medium size companies to access new markets because their technical controls are stronger and retailers have greater faith.”
Lloyd said the inspiration for the project came out of the food centre’s work with Welsh food companies and the realisation that there was a need for a longer-term relationship between food experts and the industry.
“We had Welsh food companies who were in need of technical expertise but rather than having consultants coming in and out it was more about a need for a medium- to long-term strategic alliance with experts.
‘Not for short sharp work’
“Knowledge exchange programmes are not for short sharp work but for things like technical culture change programmes where firms need longer-term support. To write systems and then to train and embed them and then to make sure they were working.”
Lloyd said the project had worked with more than 30 companies in many areas of food and drink, and could provide a wide range of expertise.
Funding for the scheme is due to end in the autumn but he said he was confident that funding for a new phase would be approved.
He is currently involved in talks with the Welsh government and said that it recognised the value of the KITE project and the contribution it could make to achieve its target of 30% growth for the food sector by 2020.