*SME Food and drink companies across the Yorkshire and Humber region will be able to benefit from funding and consultancy support for robotics and automation from InnovateBetter, a new project being run by CenFRA (Centre of Food Robotics and Automation), part of Stafforce.*

The two year project, which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will see more than £1.4m being made available for businesses in the Yorkshire and 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, with dedicated engineers and business consultants helping to empower organisations with ways to better innovate and automate. The aim of the scheme is to help SME companies in the food and drink sector increase competitiveness, enhance production, drive growth and develop new market opportunities.

Steve Cann, Director of InnovateBetter, said: “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 local events over the coming months to help SMEs in the food and drink sector to understand more about the funding and consultancy support available for innovation and automation. It will also enable businesses to network and share knowledge and best practice in the food sector. In addition to funding for robotics and automation, the project will also offer access to other consultancy services, leading toward operational improvement for businesses in the region that are eligible.

Steve Cann adds: “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, Director of Bare Earth which produces specialty meat snacks in Melmerby, North Yorkshire, has invested in automation and seen the benefits. He said: “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 create a number of new jobs too, with technical staff and engineers currently being recruited who will deliver the advice on automation to businesses and assist with ongoing support and consultancy.

Anyone interested in finding out more is advised to contact InnovateBetter on 0800 198 1166 or visit the website “Innovate Better”