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RGU and North East food and drink companies celebrate funding success

Thursday 10 September 2020

Sir Ian Wood Building
Robert Gordon University (RGU), working with two well-known North East food and drink names, Dean’s of Huntly and Sutherland’s of Portsoy, have won funding from Innovate UK to set up two Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) to improve access to markets and develop new products.

Dean’s of Huntly and Gourmets Choice (who trade until the brand name Sutherland’s of Portsoy) will work with the university for two years through different KTP programmes to capitalise on the wide-ranging expertise within the university. Funded by Innovate UK, KTPs is a nationwide programme which help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity through access to knowledge, technologies and skills that reside within universities.  The programme can be of particular benefit to companies as they consider access to markets, product development and new business approaches as they deal with the impact of COVID-19.

RGU’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences has teamed up with Gourmets Choice to contribute to the company’s ambitions of reducing waste and transitioning to a circular economy paradigm where raw materials and waste from fish processing are used in a sustainable and profitable way.

The project with Gourmets Choice will analyse the waste and research how it can either be reused or converted into something more valuable while eliminating the waste being sent to landfill.

John Farley, Director at Gourmets Choice, said: “Sutherland’s of Portsoy is committed to collaboration with academia in ways which can improve working practices. We are delighted to have been awarded this Innovate UK KTP with RGU and see this as key in the progression of the company.

“The project will involve analysing the waste generated, which in itself will be an interesting project as it will evaluate if any variances occur due to the grading quality of the fish.

“This as an exciting project which we want to result in a commercialisation project on completion. We feel that fish waste is a world issue and anything which can make better use of it has to be the way forward. We are intrigued to understand what we can extract from the different species waste and to understand what part quality, or indeed location of growth, can have.”

Dean’s of Huntly will work with RGU’s School of Creative and Cultural Business to design, develop and deploy a digital strategy.

Bill Dean, Managing Director at Dean’s of Huntly, said: “During a meeting with the Business and Economic Development team at RGU, we expressed our plans and aspirations to build a stronger presence in digital marketing. The business has been laying the foundations in terms of facilities and software integration to be ready to grow, albeit we knew that we needed to bring in the necessary skills to drive this forward, which has led to this partnership.

“The main aim of the project is to enable Dean’s to design, develop and deploy a digital strategy alongside a programme of staff development to facilitate the expansion of our online B2C sales and help grow our traditional B2B markets.”

Mr Dean added: “The overall objective is to create a robust online strategy, coupled to a well-tuned fulfilment team, that together will help grow our online sales sector and help drive greater brand awareness and distribution out-with our main heartland here in Scotland.”

Donella Beaton, Associate Vice Principal, Business and Economic Development at RGU, said: “As a professionally-focused university, stimulating economic development is one of RGU’s strategic aims and to maximise its impact and ensure relevance, the university focuses on regional as well as national priorities.  We support businesses through a number of government-funded initiatives, including the KTP programme which provides access to university expertise to help businesses develop and adapt.

“We are delighted to be working with Dean’s of Huntly and Gourmets Choice and to play this part in helping them to achieve their vision and plans for company growth.  The projects are really exciting and their realisation with such key players will also be a success for the region.

The north-east of Scotland accounts for 20% of Scotland’s food and drink output and currently employs more than 22,000 people. We at RGU, along with partners such as Opportunity North East (ONE), recognise its importance to the regional economy. At this challenging time we are particularly pleased to be able to use a government sponsored programme such as KTPs for the success of companies in the North East.”

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