Universities equip new generation of entrepreneurs to create innovation in Scotland’s food & drink sector

By Press Office

An ambitious new entrepreneurial initiative to help the next generation of food and drink innovators achieve success in the industry is taking place this November. 

The THRIVE programme, a collaboration between Queen Margaret University, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and Abertay University, aims to develop new talent to support sustainable growth in Scotland’s food and drink sector and tackle head on the need for Scotland to create a renewed culture of innovation within the sector.    

This high profile industry-focused event, which kicked off last weekend and will run until mid November, was launched by James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food and Drink. The initiative responds directly to the requirements highlighted in Scotland Food and Drink Ambition 2030 focusing on the urgency to encourage innovation in the sector to support economic development. Key to this will be a focus around key industry drivers including nutrition and health, care for the planet, sustainability, functional wellness, and the imperative to create something innovative and unique with a compelling story.    

THRIVE comprises two days of interactive and dynamic sessions delivered by leading university academics and industry specialists from the three partner organisations, as well as external business professionals.  Students and graduates are gaining a clear understanding of what is required to enter the food industry from idea generation to production. Through the combined research and industry expertise of the THRIVE partners, the team hopes to push the boundaries of innovation and support aspiring entrepreneurs in getting their ideas off the ground.     

The THRIVE programme shows these budding entrepreneurs what is necessary to not only start a business, but to run a sustainable business which continues to grow and innovate. The intensive programme equips students and graduates with the skills and knowledge they need to develop food and drink products or develop new food and drink enterprises. Sessions include market trends, influences and opportunities, product legislation, sustainable product and business development, the importance of good nutrition, making prototypes, product assessment, testing business assumptions, competitor analysis, developing a customer value proposition, creating and building a brand, marketing and routes to market and how to communicate business ideas effectively.    

The attendees also have the opportunity to learn from other people’s businesses and to share their business vision with a panel of experts from Scottish Food and Drink Federation Scotland, Santander and Business Gateway.    

Twenty-five students from the partner organisations and other Scottish universities form this first cohort.    

Miriam Smith, Innovation and Enterprise Manager at Queen Margaret University, said: “This is a really exciting development which pools our areas of expertise and responds to the unprecedented economic growth and opportunity for start-ups in the food and drink sector in Scotland. We are excited to be collaborating with Abertay University and SRUC to ensure a new generation of entrepreneurs are equipped to make a quick and successful contribution to the sector by building new businesses which are ‘fit for the future’, agile, focused on emerging markets, and committed to scaleup and growth. This will undoubtedly support Scotland’s food and drink industry in rebuilding the economy and fostering resilience within a post-pandemic and Brexit recovery.”    

Ceri Ritchie, Head of Food & Enterprise at SAC Consulting, a division of SRUC said: “Delivering THRIVE is the culmination of almost two years of collaborative development with Queen Margaret University and Abertay University.  The team at SRUC works with food and drink, tourism and diversification clients on a daily basis sharing our commercial expertise and experience.  THRIVE has enabled us to bring this commercial know-how to budding entrepreneurs at the start of their journey, helping them to build sustainable products and businesses from the outset.”    

Dr Jonathan Wilkin of Abertay University’s Food Innovation at Abertay programme said: “THRIVE is an incredible opportunity for participants to gain knowledge and skills within the food industry. We are really pleased to be working alongside our partners to showcase our extensive work in this area and we hope that these workshops are the start of an incredible story for those that are taking part."    

Feedback from attendees at the first Saturday session has demonstrated the value students and graduates are getting from THRIVE. Careen Brand, who has been participating in the programme, said: “THRIVE has been an invaluable online course, with inspiring guest speakers from industry together with the wealth of knowledge and tools provided by the hosts. There were ample opportunities to ask questions and excellent resources and materials that I will use in the future. THRIVE has provided me with plenty of food for thought!”.     

It is hoped that the delivery of THRIVE for emerging entrepreneurs will lead to further business opportunities aligned to the support provided by the three partner organisations. This support includes:  advice to the food and drink industry from the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation (SCFDI)  and entrepreneurial support  through the Business Innovation Zone at Queen Margaret University; business support provided to businesses and opportunities arising from the development of SeedPod, a centre of excellence for manufacturing and production, led by Opportunity North East with SRUC as a strategic delivery partner and located on SRUC’s Aberdeen campus; and support from Abertay’s Food Pilot Plant which provides a range of specialised equipment for the food and drink industry.    

THRIVE is being delivered online on 6th and 13th November to a cohort of students from and recent graduates of Queen Margaret University, Abertay University, and SRUC plus other Scottish universities.    

Notes to Editor

 For further media information contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, EH21 6UU, E: lrussell@qmu.ac.uk M: 07711 011239, or E: pressoffice@qmu.ac.uk

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