A free business event for the food and drink sector across Yorkshire proved such a success that more events are now being planned for 2017.

Businesses attended the ‘Simply Innovate’ conference hosted by the University of Leeds and The Food Industry Network last month to gain practical advice, details about funding options and assistance on how to grow and develop.

Speakers from global companies, such as Nestle, and Government organisations including Innovate UK, attended the event to share information on how small businesses can benefit from teaming up with universities and larger businesses, as well as the help available to help with innovation and growth.

In addition, attendees were encouraged to apply for funding through Innovate UK especially for projects to increase agricultural productivity or to improve food quality and sustainability.

Thanks to the success of the first Simply Innovate event, more are now planned to boost innovation ideas across Yorkshire’s food and drink industry and to encourage further development and create job opportunities.

Simply Innovate was organised by Leeds-based The Food Industry Network which promotes innovation and development in the food and drink sector driven by changing consumer demands.

The organisation works with established businesses across Yorkshire and Humberside looking to grow and enter new markets and also start-ups seeking rapid growth and investment.

Caroline Orfila, from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds, said: “Universities are the hub of knowledge creation. We want to work with Yorkshire SMEs to bring some innovative ideas to the market place and help create wealth in our region. But finding the right partner and supporting finance is not easy. Simply Innovate helped me to understand SME’s priorities and identified funding opportunities for innovation.’’

Ian Blakemore, operations director at The Food Industry Network, said: “Businesses from across Yorkshire and beyond attended the event which proved a great success. There’s a real demand for more information and assistance on growth opportunities as the food and drink sector is a thriving industry across our region. Innovation is essential to growth and businesses need to understand how to adapt in an increasingly volatile environment- that’s what we’re trying to help with.”

Dr Martin Pick, chair of The Food Industry Network, added: “Lots of the businesses that attended our event were unaware of the funding options available especially for those wanting to improve agricultural productivity or improve sustainability in the food and drink sector. The event also revealed opportunities for businesses to work with research networks and universities to be ahead of the game when it comes to future opportunities.” 

The Food Industry Network is involved in another event hosted by the University of Leeds at Weetwood Hall on January 16th for businesses in the food science and nutrition industry. The networking event will look at scientific approaches to understand the role of fats in food and health with keynote speakers from industry, presentations of industry-relevant research at the University of Leeds and networking opportunities throughout the day.