NEWS: Growing Kent & Medway receives support from the UKRI Strength in Places Fund

22 Mar 2019

NIAB EMR has been awarded £50,000 in funding from the UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund to develop a full business case for the Growing Kent & Medway innovation cluster.

NIAB EMR will be working with a world-class consortium of partners from the APS Group, Berry Gardens Growers, Thanet Earth Ltd, World Wide Fruit Ltd, 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 novel training programmes. It is backed by strong support from the wider civic and business community. The strongest bids in the competition will receive between £10 million and £50 million each to carry out projects that drive substantial economic growth.

The consortium’s geographical location is home to over 40% of UK high-value horticultural production and a key gateway to global markets. The opportunity for growth in the sector is significant. However, productivity in this region 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. 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 says: “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.”

He adds, “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.”

Rob James from Thanet Earth Ltd, an innovative producer of salad crops based on the north Kent coast says: “This exciting initiative will allow industry to respond to the significant challenges that currently face horticulture and food production systems, increase food security, the UK’s competitiveness and deliver sustainable economic growth to the region. We welcome this opportunity to be part of this progressive and industry-focussed consortium.”

Professor Caccamo concludes that, “this inclusive consortium is well placed to build on, and develop its network of relationships and contacts across industry, academia and civic leadership. The building blocks necessary for this initiative are already in place and the grant funding from the UKRI Strength in Places Fund will be used to catalyse and stimulate further growth and additionality to the sector.”