UK trade body The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has welcomed a Government-backed GBP15m (US$23.5m) initiative to help drive food industry innovation.

Defra yesterday (13 March) announced a government-funded drive to pioneer research and development within the UK's farming, food and drinks sector in a bid to helps boost economic recovery and reduce waste.

Food and Farming Minister Jim Paice said Defra wants to take the UK's strength as "world class" innovators and use it to the economic advantage of the country.

"By getting businesses innovating and enhancing the UK's reputation as a world class pioneer of new production and manufacturing techniques, the food and farming sector can be a real engine for growth," Paice said.

As part of the initiative, two competitions will be launched at today's Farming, Food and Drink Innovation Summit, with up to GBP15m in grants on offer to bigger businesses to invest in projects that will increase the efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness of food processing and manufacturing, with a further GBP500,000 available to small and medium-sized businesses, with grants of up to GBP25,000.

FDF director of competitiveness Angela Coleshill said the announcement could be of particular help to small and medium-sized food and drinks businesses.

"Although challenging, we know that our sector not only has the appetite, but the ability to grow, particularly in a supportive business environment. Amongst other things, this funding could help businesses invest in the new infrastructure needed to meet overseas demand for great British-made brands, which in turn not only creates new jobs here in the UK, but also helps to safeguard existing ones."