"The U.K. Food Industry lacking investment in R&D" .....What a surprise A New Food Innovation Ltd perspective, by Alan Marson

"UK Food Industry, Lacking Investment in R&D" – What a surprise...

A recent headline; “The U.K.'s largest sectors of manufacturing are not Innovating enough" from EEF Ltd Manufacturers, revealed that the UK’s largest manufacturing sector; the food industry, accounts for only 3% of the total across all manufacturing. The published article uses 2015 data from an ONS survey on manufacturing added value to the associated R&D costs.

This may seem staggering for an industry which contributes £109 billion or 7.3% of Gross added value to the UK economy, and provides employment for 3.9 million people, which accounts for 14% of the UK population and is also by far the U.K.'s largest export category.

However, those involved in the food industry particularly those in processing and technical management will understand why I think this Headline comes as no surprise

Most of the food industry is retailer driven requiring rapid short product development, quick response, low risk reformulation, redesign or re-launch. This approach is not what other manufacturing sectors would describe as “Innovation”, which typically is the creation and delivering of a novel consumer need or one which solves a major long term technology challenge or which positively disrupts the food system.

In order to do this the priority should focus on resources, both in terms of skills and finance, and for the Food Industry this is a challenge and in most instances a risk too far. All but a few major food companies have these resources and capabilities to achieve this. When smaller companies venture outside their normal scope, they find locating academics difficult, and struggle working with them.

With research centres finding their own economy in turmoil, costs are pushed onto companies and are consequentially too expensive, in both of these instances the solutions don’t come quick enough.

What also seems to be happening in day to day problem solving is that the food manufacturers are increasingly pushing back into the supply chain for a solution, pulling in support from ingredients and equipment suppliers to help solve immediate challenges, and increasing their vulnerability and risk.

Following many years of experience of working in this arena, what I am describing is a not too unrealistic picture of the UK food industry today. Therefore, whilst this may sound like a major problem, true innovators would see this as an opportunity to develop and use design innovation to provide new responsive support systems.

There are a number of science and technology groups whom can support, provide expertise and know how to help accelerate innovation and the resolution of major technology problems. This can be done by linking companies up to the right skills or science providers, and also to seek out public funding like that offered through organisations such as Innovate UK, and the local Enterprise Partnerships.

Furthermore, much of this type of external Innovation support, benefits from the UK R&D tax credits, which helps supports the investment into further R&D, We Food professionals have an obligation to encourage and inspire our contacts and clients to find novel ways to invest time and resources into an innovation for growth agenda for today’s UK Food Manufacturing industry .

Since forming New Food Innovation Ltd in 2010, with business partner Jacek Obuchowicz, we have assisted many companies through its business growth lab, providing strategic innovation support and helping companies overcome technology challenges which would otherwise stifle growth.

Within the Academic and Innovator arena, we support the development, translation and commercialisation of new technology, and are currently working on the formation of spins out, working alongside the commercial investor community.

Twitter - New Food Innovation: @newfoodteam

Twitter - Alan Marson: @bakeralan137

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.