The summit brought together over 300 leaders from the UK & Irish food industry to identify ways research, innovation and training could boost the agri-food sector in both countries by working collaboratively.
IFR’s Director Professor David Boxer, in his opening remarks, set out the challenge facing the food industry and the need to innovate. “We need to make better use of the world class research and development and training expertise in the UK and Ireland to support the Food & Drink sector in realising its massive potential for new jobs and exports in a world market demanding safe, tasty and affordable food.”
Meeting this demand has made food and drink the UK and Ireland’s biggest manufacturing sector creating jobs, wealth and tax revenues. It also provides a market for UK and Irish agricultural produce. These sectors are vitally important in Norfolk, and IFR on the Norwich Research Park works closely with businesses locally to ensure that the sector can take effective advantage of research and development.
In addition, IFR is playing an increasingly important role in bringing together food research and industry, nationally and internationally, to ensure that food manufacturing’s vital role in the economy and in promoting health is not overlooked.
“If our food industry does not continually innovate it will become less competitive, resulting in lost demand, lost jobs and reduced revenues both in the agricultural and food manufacturing sectors,” said Professor Boxer. “We want to do more to ensure that food manufacturing has the tools and support it needs to succeed.”
This was a driver behind IFR co-organising the UK-Ireland Food Business Innovation Summit, which brought together over 300 leading UK and Irish food company executives and retailers, along with policy makers and research managers to identify the key opportunities that exist for innovation in the food sector and how that could drive growth in jobs and business for the UK Ireland Food Sector.
Two keynote addresses were given by the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD and the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon. Owen Paterson, MP.
Secretary of State, Owen Paterson said; “This Summit and this sector have a key role to play in helping us unlock the huge potential that exists for the UK and Irish economies – economies that already benefit from a flow of people, goods and ideas. I want to work towards a plant and animal health biosecurity regime for both these islands, as part of our shared determination to strengthen our food and drink industries. By working together we can maximise the benefits to the food and drink industry in the UK and Ireland.”
Speaking at the event, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD said: “This summit provides a wonderful opportunity for food company executives, retailers, and research managers from both sides of the Irish Sea to come together in order to debate the key challenges in research, skills and knowledge and the opportunities for innovation in the food sector. A key theme of this event is innovation and it is something I am deeply interested in. We see the agri-food sector as a driver of sustainable growth in the economy. Long term demand for premium quality, safe food products is increasing. The ending of EU milk quotas provides an opportunity to realise the food industry’s potential in a way that up to now was only open to non-EU players. There is great scope for Ireland and the UK to work closely together, building on the linkages that currently exist, so as to exploit the opportunities and overcome the challenges.”
The summit will set the groundwork for a new era of collaboration across the two islands and help increase growth and competitiveness by reinforcing our innovation capacity and helping towards the development of a wider European focus on innovation. This could include food research collaborations, working together on education programmes, and business innovation support.
Opportunities for exploitation of new ideas and introduction of new products require new knowledge and new skills. A strong research base in food is vital, particularly in the space between food manufacturing and health. IFR’s Food and Health Network plays a key role in ensuring knowledge cascades to industry.
The summit was jointly organised by Teagasc and the Institute of Food Research (IFR), UK and supported by Food Innovation Gateways, British Irish Chamber of Commerce, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland. A series of presentations by leading UK and Irish food company chief executives and senior managers focused on issues such as food security, reducing waste, the growing world population, emerging markets and shortening the food chain.
Both countries share a common objective of making the sector more productive and competitive. Food and drink exports underpin the relationship between the UK and Ireland. In 2012, 42% of Irish food and drink exports, worth €3.8 billion were consumed in the UK. The market accounted for over 52% of total Irish beef exports and 36% of dairy products and ingredient exports in 2012. The flow of trade is two way. The value of food exports from the UK to Ireland is in the region of £3 billion stg per annum.
About the Institute of Food Research
The mission of the Institute of Food Research, www.ifr.ac.uk, is to undertake international quality scientific research relevant to food and human health and to work in partnership with others to provide underpinning science for consumers, policy makers, the food industry and academia. It is a company limited by guarantee, with charitable status.
IFR is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
The institutes deliver innovative, world class bioscience research and training, leading to wealth and job creation, generating high returns for the UK economy. They have strong links with business, industry and the wider community, and support policy development
The institutes’ research underpins key sectors of the UK economy such as agriculture, bioenergy, biotechnology, food and drink and pharmaceuticals. In addition, the institutes maintain unique research facilities of national importance.