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Food Innovation Network

Simon Baty, KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for AgriFood, describes the objectives and launch of the Food Innovation Network.

Designed to help SMEs in the food sector innovate and grow, the Food Innovation Network (FIN) is a new, national initiative for small and medium-sized food businesses (SMEs) to give them greater access to world-leading technology. It is part of the Government’s 25-year plan to position the UK as a global leader in food and farming. The FIN’s primary objective is to tackle the issues currently impeding innovation, productivity and growth in UK agri-food and drink businesses.

The FIN is co-funded with two other bodies: the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. It will be co-ordinated by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), which will help to champion and establish the FIN with industry and shape its work programme, as well as engage extensively with industry, academia, funders, innovation enablers and users.

The FIN’s primary objective is to tackle the issues currently impeding innovation, productivity and growth in UK agri-food and drink businesses.”

Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsome, visiting the exhibition


More than 200 people were at the National AgriFood Innovation Campus in York in October 2016 to witness Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, launch the FIN. With almost 40 exhibition stands representing agrifood sectors, such as education, research, regional food and trade associations, the launch day was a superb opportunity to network and begin to understand how the FIN will connect people.

Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, said: ‘Our thriving food and drink sector has already helped make Britain more globally competitive through its incredible innovation. The UK’s food and farming sector generates over £100bn a year and employs one in eight people, with the food manufacturing sector bigger than cars and aerospace combined.’

‘From extending the shelf life of our food to increasing the amount of Vitamin D in our eggs, the Food Innovation Network will help make the sector as forward-looking as possible and push the boundaries of British food production.’

Opening remarks came from Ian Noble, Senior R&D Director at Mondelez and Chair of the Food Innovation Network, and throughout the day, there were presentations from successful innovators and AgriFood support services.

Tim Finnigan of Marlow Foods described how Quorn products are continuing to grow the consumption of plant-based food with research into improved flavours and textures. The Intellectual Property Office launched its new Lambert Toolkit [1] to assist academic or research institutions and industrial partners wishing to carry out research projects together. This was organised by the AgriFood Tech Council to support the translation of UK academic excellence into commercial success, with minimal delays over IP agreements.

Attracting SMEs

SME engagement is a well-known challenge, so the FIN will pilot differing approaches, such as breakfast meetings, evening meetings, competitions (funding permitting), online surveys via social media channels, specialist workshops (IP, winning funding, reward crowd funding, etc.) and thought leadership articles in the York area. The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding region is an ideal location to be at the heart of this initiative, as it has world-class business, internationally renowned assets and industry.

Web portal

As the FIN progresses, there will be other examples of how barriers to innovation will be lowered or removed. For instance, the FIN will be developing a web portal that will allow users to find collaborators, facilities, funders, experts and interact with each other to speed up innovation. Key to this will be the KTN AgriFood UK landscape portal – an overview of industry activity across the country – and konfer [2] (see FS&T, September 2016, p41), a tool being developed by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB).

What’s next?

2017 is going to be a big year for the FIN with a number of challenges, such as:

• Making sure that small and medium size food businesses know that the FIN is there to help them

• Listening to industry needs and developing answers and solutions where possible, using the AgriFood Tech Council to influence Government where appropriate

• Identifying how best to turn BBSRC-funded research into commercial opportunities

• Finding new ways to connect industry and researchers to develop new ideas and business opportunities

• Being a focal point for existing groups within the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding region, thus making them stronger together

• Learning from pilot successes in the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding region and using them to engage in other regions.

Lambert Toolkit

The Lambert toolkit was created to assist academic or research institutions and industrial partners

wishing to collaborate on research projects.

The objectives are to:

• facilitate negotiations between potential partners

• reduce the time, money and effort required to secure agreement

• provide examples of best practice.

The toolkit consists of:

• a decision guide

• 7 model research collaboration (one to one) agreements (1-6)

• 4 consortium (multi-party) agreements (A-D)

• heads of terms and variation agreements for both collaboration and consortium agreements

• guidance notes

• The model agreements are not sector specific and can be adapted to meet the particular circumstances of a project or collaboration



konfer is a new tool for enhancing university industry collaboration created by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), working in partnership with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Research Councils UK (RCUK).

When a business owner spots an opportunity, konfer supports the journey from finding a research partner and funding to planning and co-creation. It does this by giving direct access to:

• 8000 academics

• 11,000 facility and equipment listings

• 800,000 web pages from university sites and social media

• 22,000 YouTube videos from university channels

• 10,000 news, funding and events articles from curated feeds

• 50,000 publicly funded research projects konfer brings knowledge and growth to businesses, valuable exposure for university talent and future strength for the UK economy.


Simon Baty is co-ordinator of the Food Innovation Network and KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for AgriFood.

Email: Web:

For more information, please visit the Food Innovation Network website or contact Simon Baty directly.






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