New support for Highland food and drink firms

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Highland based food and drink companies are set to benefit from new business support services.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has awarded a £371,895 contract to SAC Consulting to provide a mix of virtual and face-to-face support over the next three years, focused on innovation and the development of new products and services.

They will include business and stakeholder engagement, networking and collaboration, and demonstration and learning opportunities.

There will be specific support for young entrepreneurs in the sector, with links to HIE’s IMPACT30 programme, which aims to help foster the next generation of business leaders.

The new support services contract is funded by the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal. It forms part of HIE’s wider support for the food and drink sector through the Northern Innovation Hub (NIH), a £14.2m initiative led by HIE as part of the Deal.

NIH is funded with £11m from UK Government, £1.2m ERDF and £2m from HIE and focuses on developing innovation in small and medium sized enterprises in the Highland Council area.

Claire Munro, HIE’s senior project manager for the Northern Innovation Hub, said: ‘The food and drink industry is one of the Highlands’ most important sectors and a key rural employer with significant growth potential. That’s why it is one the four key sectors prioritised in the Northern Innovation Hub.

‘This new programme of support will encourage and support Highland based food and drink companies to continue their recovery and growth and ultimately create more quality jobs.  Importantly, it will support young entrepreneurs in the sector too.

‘We are very pleased to be working with SAC Consulting and look forward to seeing our region’s businesses benefit as a result.’

Alistair Trail, principal food and enterprise consultant for SAC Consulting, said: ‘SAC Consulting are delighted to be working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise to deliver the Food and Drink TechHUB Business Support Service for businesses in the Highlands Council Area.

‘The Highlands region has a great reputation for producing fantastic food and by delivering this exciting and innovative project we will endeavour to help the businesses in the region grow and encourage new entrepreneurs into the sector.’

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: ‘Scotland’s food and drink is one of its major export success stories, and the industry is of particular importance to rural communities.

‘The new support services being delivered at the Northern Innovation Hub will help the industry to grow, which will bring more jobs and investment to the Highlands.

‘The UK Government is providing £11m for the Hub as part of £2bn of support for regional projects to level up communities across Scotland.’