Plans for £3.5 million food and drink technology centre for the Highlands revealed

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Proposals have emerged for a £3.5 million food and drink technology centre to be developed in the Highlands.

According to development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) which is behind the scheme, the planned facility would be aimed at new and growing businesses and focus on innovation and collaborative working in the sector.

It would provide facilities to support new product development and process improvement for the industry in the area and incubation spaces for fledgling companies.

Part of the £16m Northern Innovation Hub (NIH) project, development of the centre was originally earmarked for this year, but is now expected to begin in around 2022.

Launched two years ago, the NIH is focused on four key industry sectors, which also include tourism, life sciences and creative industries, to encourage adoption of new technologies and creation of more opportunities for young people. The planned food and drink technology centre is among a number of projects intended to “strengthen innovation and increase competitiveness” among businesses across the Highland Council area.It is understood a site for the centre has not yet been selected.

An HIE document setting out the business case for the development said: “A food and drink technology centre would provide facilities for start-ups and growing businesses to support innovation and collaboration. It would support product development and process improvement, as well as collaborative working and incubation spaces.

“The proposal forms part of the food and drink sector element of the Northern Innovation Hub project, being led by HIE under the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal. The NIH business case had an aspirational date of 2019 for implementation of the technology centre, but this has since been revised to 2022.”

The NIH was allocated £11m UK Government funding through the City Region Deal, £3m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £2m from HIE.