The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has mustered a range of specialists to create the Food and Drink Innovation Gateway, a simple online tool that will match firms with the expertise to support them with technical challenges. The partnership will provide valuable insights into the technological needs of the industry, helping to improve and better target the support available and will be initially available only to FDF members.
Latest annual figures from the FDF suggest the sector’s procurement of robots has increased by more than a third on 2019 and nearly £800m has been invested in research and development and software.
The trade body said rising costs, labour shortages and stretched supply chains were increasing pressure on businesses seeking to make longer-term investments, but using existing and emerging technologies was vital for food processors to overcome these challenges and to increase productivity, reduce waste and improve sustainability. It could also create high-skilled green jobs and help lessen the sector's environmental impact.
A web portal will link manufacturers up with institutions such as the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the University of Lincoln, who will help demystify technology, understand where it can be best used and how to implement it.
“The FDF is proud to have established the Innovation Gateway that we’re launching today," said FDF Chief Executive Karen Betts. "It will offer practical support to food and drink companies across the UK to help them to harness the opportunities that technology can offer. By investing in digital capability, food and drink businesses will be able to improve the productivity and sustainability of our companies and our supply chain – critical investments both in future growth and in the resilience of our industry.”
Steve Barton, strategic project director, ABF Grocery Group and chair of the FDF’s Technology Forum said: “The Innovation Gateway makes it easy to quickly identify the best automation and technology solutions. This is increasingly important as we manage decarbonisation, rising energy costs and commodity price volatility. Completing one online form connects food businesses to an independent specialist to help find the right partner to step change their productivity and efficiency.”