The north-east food and drink industry could be in line for a major jobs boost after a £21 million innovation hub was approved by councillors.
SeedPod, a project led by Opportunity North East (One), will be built on the outskirts of Aberdeen at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) Craibstone campus.
The development is regarded as key to the north-east’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Designed to create jobs, stimulate economic recovery and help north-east businesses explore innovation and sustainability, the multi-million pound facility will be a “centre of excellence” for the food and drink sector.
The industry already supports more than 20,000 jobs in the region, and key players believe hub could create thousands more.
Hub ‘critical’ for climate goals
Bosses at One and other stakeholders including SRUC say the development – which has now been approved unanimously by Aberdeen City Council’s planning committee – will “drive green economic recovery” and help the north-east reach its net-zero targets.
Patrick Machray OBE, vice-chairman of One and chairman of Food Hub (NES) Limited, described the hub as “critical”.
“The project partners are delighted that SeedPod has received the necessary planning approval so that we can proceed at pace with final procurement and construction,” he said.
“Food and drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, turns over £2.2 billion in north east Scotland every year and already provides more than 22,000 jobs in the region. It is our largest industry after energy.
Hub ‘critical to our economic future’
“Its growth is critical to our economic future as it can deliver more and higher-value jobs, increase exports of premium products to high-margin markets and play a key role in the drive to a low-carbon economy.
“SeedPod will be the sector’s go-to place to deliver business growth, create new employment and fast-track the next generation of entrepreneurial start-ups.
“Its facilities, programmes and the global consumer insights it will provide will make the region’s businesses leaders in foods of the future innovation, high-value manufacturing and low-carbon food production and support industry growth nationally.”
Plans to move project forward ‘at pace’
The chosen site for the food and drink hub is on the outskirts of Aberdeen, close to the P&J Live entertainment complex.
It was chosen from a possible 18 locations because of its proximity to Aberdeen International Airport and the AWPR, and the easy access it provides to both the city centre and Aberdeenshire.
The scheme will be delivered with the help of funding from the Aberdeen City Region Deal.
Aberdeenshire Council leader Andy Kille, chairman of the city region deal joint committee, said: “Food and drink is a major industry and employer in north-east Scotland with a critical role to play in economic recovery and growth.
“SeedPod – supported by the Aberdeen City Region Deal – will provide facilities, resources and tools for businesses of all sizes to grow, create new jobs and opportunities for the region’s people and communities.”
Now that planning permission has been granted One intends to move the project forward “at pace”.
Councillor Martin Greig, a member of the planning committee, described the SeedPod as an “excellent initiative”.
“This will be an important facility to develop our local food and drink industry in Aberdeen and the north-east,” he added.
“We need to encourage and support new businesses in this sector. This project is a welcome place to grow and innovate business activity.”
UK Goverment minister for Scotland Iain Stewart MP said: “SeedPod is great example of the UK and Scottish governments working together with regional partners to bring new jobs and opportunities to communities across north-east Scotland.
“This new hub will play a leading role in supporting innovation and growth in Scotland’s iconic food and drink sector as it expands into new markets.
“The UK Government is investing more than £1.5 billion into growth deal projects across Scotland that will help us to build back better from the pandemic.”
Scottish Government cabinet secretary for finance and economy Kate Forbes added: “The Scottish Government is a full partner in the Aberdeen City Region City Deal, contributing £125 million over 10 years.
“The investment in this project through the Deal 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.
“Projects like SeedPod highlight the importance of this Deal and demonstrates the ability to provide support to the northeast food and drink industry and diversify the regional economy.”