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Research, partnerships and accessing funding

4 September 2023 | Craig Leadley, Technology Fellow

Our research programme includes projects designed to perform fundamental research, as well as projects looking at implementation of novel technologies and ideas. We work closely with academic institutions and, to complement our core research offering, we also encourage our members and clients to work with us to access external funds such as from Innovate UK.

This blog covers some context on UKRI funding channels, our background in connecting businesses to the funding bodies and resources that they need, as well as information about some of the exciting research for which we have received UKRI / Innovate UK funding, and the research areas in which we are supporting PhD studentships.

Some background on UKRI funding

UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. It brings together the seven disciplinary research councils (Research England) responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and for the UK’s innovation agency (Innovate UK).

BBSRC is the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which is part of UKRI. Through their investments, they build and support a vibrant, dynamic and inclusive community that delivers ground-breaking discoveries and develops bio-based solutions that contribute to tackling global challenges, such as sustainable food production, climate change, and healthy ageing.

EPSRC is the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Like BBSRC, EPSRC is part of UKRI. It invests in world-leading research and skills to advance knowledge and improve our economy, environment and society. Their portfolio ranges from digital technologies to clean energy, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry.

Innovate UK, also part of UKRI, is the UK’s national innovation agency. It supports business-led innovation in all sectors, technologies and UK regions. Innovate UK help businesses grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes, and services, supported by an outstanding innovation ecosystem that is agile, inclusive, and easy to navigate.

Innovate UK KTN (Knowledge Transfer Network) exists to connect innovators with new partners and new opportunities beyond their existing thinking. It has a wide network, deep sector expertise, and can connect small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to people and organisations to help accelerate ambitious ideas into real-world solutions and solve technology problems.

Innovate UK Edge is also part of Innovate UK, and focuses specifically on grant to support high potential small to medium sized innovation-driven companies.

We can act as the facilitator to connect you to the funding that you need to get your innovation off the ground.

Our on site event in October – “Partnerships and Accessing funding”

We have an upcoming in-person event, exclusively for our members, which focuses on how to access funding for your food and drink industry innovations.

Through funding body, blue-chip company and SME speakers, the event will cover an overview of UKRI and how the industry can engage with research, how Innovate UK funding works and what’s available, Innovate UK and Innovate Edge case studies from Campden BRI, and hearing directly from SMEs who have benefitted from funding.

There will also be opportunities for valuable networking, as well as to make use of table top displays from funding agencies, speakers and the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network.

Our projects funded by Innovate UK

We, both independently and as part of consortiums, currently have four exciting Innovate UK-funded projects in the set-up phase. These cover novel low-emission food production systems, development of a new powder decontamination technology, novel functional ingredients and extraction technology.

Grapes on factory production line being monitored by worker

Other research that we support

As part of the many research, client and collaboration projects that we work on, we support on two ‘transforming food systems’ projects. Keeping with the earlier theme of cultured / cultivated meat, there is a project, led by Professor Tom MacMillan from the Royal Agricultural University, called “Cultured meat – a threat or opportunity for UK farmers” in which I am involved in an advisory capacity. The project brings together agriculture experts and farming groups to look at the potential impact on the farming community of this potentially transformative technology.

The other ‘transforming food systems’ project in which we are involved is ‘BeanMeals’ – it is part of the Food System Transformation Programme, led by Dr John Ingram at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. This reverse food system project (from ‘fork to farm’) is focused on promoting healthy diets through bean, lentil and pulse based school meals and works backwards at how to make this work through all of the supporting elements of the whole supply chain.

We also support research council activities and initiatives in various ways. I am involved in the EPSRC-funded Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub. The EPSRC is funding the hub under its Manufacturing Research Hubs for a Sustainable Future initiative. As part of the same UKRI ‘hubs’ initiative, BBSRC and partners have six innovation hubs as part of their Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club (OIRC). Of these six, I am on the management board for the Biofortification Hub, and on the scientific advisory board for the RIPEN Hub.

The Biofortification Hub (hosted by Quadram Institute Bioscience and the John Innes Centre on the Norwich Research Park) combines expertise in soil, crop genetics, food innovation and human health and nutrition, to work closely on the biofortification of food and feed crops with farmers, food producers and retailers across the supply chain. The RIPEN Hub (led by Imperial College London, University of Surrey and PepsiCo) is a translational innovation hub for population health using food and nutrition approaches to enhance positive physiology.

The BBSRC Food Consortium CTP

The Food Consortium Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP) brings us (as the largest UK based independent science and technology provider and trainer for the food industry) together with food manufacturers with a significant R&D base in the UK, and the Haydn Green Institute (Nottingham University business school)Its aim is to c reate a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation to connect ideas, people and communities to respond to societal, environmental and economic challenges and drive positive change through innovation.

The partners include Campden BRI, Mondeléz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Samworth Brothers and The Haydn Green Institute. The key output of the CTP is the delivery of 28 PhD studentships, focusing on specific key areas within resilient agriculture, nutrient quality and resource utilisation.

We are funding three of these PhDs. Already underway is a studentship at the Quadrum Institute, researching food pre-processing effects on the gut microbiome.

We are currently advertising a PhD in the department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath. This is looking at utilising food waste as a feedstock for cultivated meat. This will get underway this year, and we will be commencing a third PhD studentship next year.

Alongside their research activities, the students will receive a great programme of complimentary training from us, for example in skills such as entrepreneurship.

More PhDs

We are funding two PhDs at the university of Nottingham, both on connecting consumers with producers. One focuses on consumer access to sustainability information, and the other focuses on the use of augmented reality as a communication tool. We also fund a PhD at the University of Lincoln, and this research focuses on using artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and schedule cleaning activities within food manufacturing operations.

Four of our employees are currently working towards their PhDs as part of their work with us. These focus on current and emergent allergens in food production systems, using metagenomics to track and analyse microbial populations through food production, modelling for the accurate pasteurisation of beer with yeast ascospores, and looking at nutrition profiling, sustainability metrics and the evolving regulatory framework of digital food environments.

Your connector to the funding you need to succeed

We can act as the facilitator to connect you to the funding that you need to get your innovation off the ground.

We have been undertaking pioneering research for over 100 years. We provide a wide range of services and products, all underpinned by investment in meaningful research and science.

Members can attend our upcoming event for more information, case studies and expert advice on this topic – it promises to be a great opportunity for inspiration, guidance and networking with those who may be able to support you.

Start-ups / SMEs can look into their eligibility for Innovate Edge funding, and get in touch for support.

If you would like us to be part of your research and development consortium, want to access our services, or need support with securing funding, get in touch with our experts.

Craig Leadley

About Craig Leadley

Craig is a food industry professional with over 25 years of experience in food manufacturing consultancy. Technology Fellow at Campden BRI engaged in training, consultancy and research grant development with the industrial/academic community.

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