FDF reveals online tool enabling firms to harness technology for key business growth

A major initiative is being launched by the UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF), to enable businesses, including those within the confectionery sector, to engage with key technology to grow their operations, writes Neill Barston.

The organisation has created its Innovation Gateway online tool that has been designed to match firms in their respective market segments with the expertise to support them with their technical challenges.

As the FDF noted, this partnership is anticipated to provide valuable insights into the technological needs of the industry, helping improve and better target the support available.

According to the organisation, in 2020, the sector’s procurement of robots increased by more than a third on 2019 and nearly £800m was invested in research and development and software. But rising costs, labour shortages and stretched supply chains are putting increased pressures on businesses seeking to make longer-term investments.

Utilising existing and new technologies is vital for food and drink businesses to overcome these challenges and to increase productivity, reduce waste and improve sustainability. It can also create new, high skilled green jobs across all nations and regions, and support the FDF’s ambition for the sector to be Net Zero by 2040.

Experts in the world of research and higher education, from the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) to the University of Lincoln will be on hand to enable businesses of all sizes to better understand the opportunities that innovation can deliver, while helping to de-risk investments and implement the technology.

Commenting on the initiative, the FDF’s Chief Executive Karen Betts, pictured speaking at the scheme’s launch), said: “The FDF is proud to have established the Innovation Gateway that we are launching today. 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.”

Furthermore, Steve Barton, Strategic Project Director, ABF Grocery Group and Chair of the FDF’s Technology Forum believed the new project made it easier for companies to establish the most appropriate technology solutions. He noted this was  increasingly important in managing decarbonisation, rising energy costs and commodity price volatility.

He said: “Completing one online form connects food businesses to an independent specialist to help find the right partner to step change their productivity and efficiency. It may sound like a simple concept, but the Innovation Gateway has been complex to bring together and I applaud the work of the FDF and the commitment of the UK innovation sector for their support for the UK food industry.”


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