Bring on the robots, food and drink firms urged

Using robots can help companies to boost profits as well as create jobs
Using robots can help companies to boost profits as well as create jobs
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YORKSHIRE companies have the chance to boost their profits – and create jobs – with help from a project that encourages them to use robots.

Food and drink companies across Yorkshire will soon be able to benefit from funding and consultancy support for robotics and automation from InnovateBetter, a project which is being run by CenFRA (Centre for Food Robotics and Automation).

The Doncaster-based Centre for Food Robotics and Automation has been established to encourage food and drinks firms to use robotics to produce goods more quickly.

The two-year project, which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will lead to more than £1.4m being made available for businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber region under the Automation and Robotics Innovation Grants Scheme, which offers matched funding to help companies invest in “business improvement” projects.

The InnovateBetter project will offer organisations specialist advice and guidance.

Dedicated engineers and business consultants will be appointed to help organisations to innovate and automate. The aim of the scheme is to help SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) in the food and drink sector to become more competitive.

As a result of improving their production techniques, it’s hoped that companies will increase their market share.

Steve Cann, the director of InnovateBetter, said yesterday: “We are really excited about what this means for food and drink manufacturers in this region.

“It comes at just the right time, as manufacturers are facing increasing production and commodity costs, along with ongoing pressure from the market to keep prices down, which in turn is squeezing margins.

“InnovateBetter is about empowering organisations to improve their business performance and competitiveness by embracing technological advances.

“We expect that this project will have a major impact in safeguarding and creating jobs, as well as adding to the efficiency and competitiveness of this region’s food and drink companies.”

InnovateBetter is planning to run a series of events over the coming months to help SMEs in the food and drink sector to find out more about the funding and consultancy support available for innovation and automation.

It will also help businesses to network and share knowledge and ‘best practice’ in the food sector.

Apart from providing funding for robotics and automation, the project will also offer access to other consultancy services.

Mr Cann said: “As well as providing funding, we will also be supporting the transfer of knowledge and learning to improve business performance, by bringing like-minded networks and individuals together through a programme of events.

“With around 900 SME food and drinks-related companies in the region, we are advising businesses to get in touch and find out more about the project and how they could benefit.”

Gary Quinn, a director of Bare Earth, a company which produces meat snacks in Melmerby, North Yorkshire, has invested in automation and seen the benefits.

He said yesterday: “Automating our packaging and other production processes means that we have been able to reduce costs that has made us more competitive, so it is fantastic news that funding and support is now available for automation for SME businesses in this region.”

It is expected that the InnovateBetter project will lead to the creation of jobs.

Technical staff and engineers are being recruited, who will deliver the advice on automation to businesses and help with support and consultancy.

The food manufacturing sector employs around 500,000 people across the UK and is worth around £70bn.

Around 15 per cent of the total manufacturing sector workforce is employed in the food and drink industry.

Further information can be obtained by contacting InnovateBetter on 0800 198 1166 or by visiting the website

Support for automation

The InnovateBetter project is partly financed by the Automation and Robotics Innovation Grants Scheme, which comes under the European Regional Development Fund programme.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help stimulate economic growth.

For more information, visit InnovateBetter is run by CenFRA – the Centre for Food, Robotics and Automation – which is part of Stafforce Personnel.