Aberdeen City Region Deal (ACRD) partners have hailed progress on a “critical ingredient” for growing the north-east food and drink sector.
A planning application for a £21 million development “hub” – to be called Seedpod – has been submitted to Aberdeen City Council.
It is the cornerstone of efforts to double the size of the region’s £2.2 billion food and drink sector.
Led by economic development partnership Opportunity North East (One), SeedPod is aimed at putting the region’s manufacturing and processing businesses “at the forefront of innovation, productivity and sustainability”, increasing high-value exports and creating new jobs.
According to One, it will play a key role in green economic recovery, helping businesses and the sector deliver low-carbon production and contribute to net-zero goals.
The ambition is to increase sector turnover by 5% per year by helping established companies accelerate growth through innovation and technology adoption, as well as market and product development.
Firms will be encouraged to think globally, while production space and development facilities will be made available for start-ups.
The new facility will be based at Scotland Rural College’s Craibstone campus in Aberdeen.
Subject to planning approval and contractor appointments, main construction works are programmed to start this summer in advance of SeedPod opening in autumn 2022.
Funding for the development includes £10m provided jointly by the UK Government and Scottish Government via the ACRD – a partnership between both governments, One, the city council and Aberdeenshire Council.
One has committed a further £4.4m towards the delivery of SeedPod’s objectives and set up a company, Food Hub (NES), to deliver the project. The balance of the overall price tag is money still to be raised.
One vice-chairman and Food Hub (NES) chairman Patrick Machray said: “SeedPod is the critical ingredient that will help north-east Scotland’s significant food and drink sector to innovate, accelerate growth, increase productivity and target foods of the future products at high-margin markets.
“It will provide young businesses with essential space to grow in its production incubator units, support established companies with productivity and market development, and is a strategic asset at a critical time for national sector recovery and growth.
“This is a transformational project for realising the sector’s green growth ambition. SeedPod will increase the value of exports, and the jobs that food and drink manufacturers and processors provide in rural and urban communities.”
City council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “SeedPod will deliver on the north east’s ambition to grow the size and value of the food and drink sector.
“The new facility will make a real difference to all areas of the industry to inspire established businesses to innovate, and to grow and nurture the next generation of start-ups in the region.”
Aberdeenshire Council leader Andy Kille said: “To have this facility on the doorstep of local producers allows them to be at the heart of the future of their sector.”
Scotland Office Minister Iain Stewart said the initiative was “a great example” of the UK and Scottish governments working together with regional partners to support innovation and growth in Scotland’s “iconic” food and drink sector.
Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Cabinet Scretary Michael Matheson MSP said: “The investment in this project… will contribute to the region’s economic recovery by creating jobs and providing the commercial infrastructure to support and attract businesses to Aberdeen and the surrounding areas.”