Published: 08:45, 02 April 2019
Funding has been received to formulate a business plan which could result in a multi-million pound injection to boost local food producers.
Horticultural research and development centre NIAB EMR - formerly known as East Malling Research - has been awarded £50,000 from the UK Research and Innovation Strength in Place Fund to develop the case for the Growing Kent & Medway innovation cluster.
Working with a consortium of partners from the APS Group, Berry Gardens Growers, Thanet Earth, World Wide Fruit, Hadlow College, the University of Greenwich, and the University of Kent, the proposed collaboration will increase research capacity and co-invested industry engagement to drive innovation, commercialisation and training programmes.
The strongest bids in the competition will receive between £10million and £50m each to carry out projects that drive substantial economic growth.
While the region is home to 40% of UK high-value horticultural production and a key gateway to global markets, productivity is under-performing in stark contrast to other regions where investment in research and business led collaboration has resulted in significant economic uplift and prosperity.
It is hoped by driving innovation and productivity throughout the agri-food supply chain, Growing Kent & Medway will deliver sustainable economic and social benefits to a region that has some of the most deprived areas in England.
Professor Mario Caccamo, managing director at NIAB EMR, explained: “The announcement of this seed-corn funding is a major achievement and reflects the hard work and aspirations of the consortium partners, to invest in, and grow the regional economy.
“We will create a modern, dynamic and outward looking research and innovation-focused business cluster. It will develop Kent and Medway as the UK's leading region for the production and processing of high-value foods and plant-based compounds.
"This vision for Growing Kent & Medway aligns with both national and local strategic priorities by supporting an entrepreneurial culture, business start-ups, encouraging inward investment, job creation, skills development, social inclusion, and economic growth across the sector”.