A cutting-edge facility for new product development and innovation for food and drink businesses has been officially opened at the University of West London.
The West London Food Innovation Lab, a £1.5 million project co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, offers London and Greater London start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) advice and technical support crucial for new product development or product reformulation, providing a range of laboratory services ranging from nutritional and texture analysis to sensory evaluation.
More than 30 London-based small businesses have already benefitted from the head-start given to them by the expertise of the team, which is led by Professor Alexandros Paraskevas, Chair in Hospitality Management at the London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism. The recent launch event showcased some of the companies whose products have already benefited from the lab’s services, including a rice-based dairy-free yoghurt, a crunchy-roasted cricket snack in three flavours, a range of cold-brew teas and a plant-based jerky.
Professor Peter John, Vice-Chancellor of UWL, said: “The University has a well-earned reputation for producing top-quality graduates and research to support the food industry. This new lab will assist businesses that cannot afford research and development to turn food and drink concepts into marketable products by engaging in science-informed product formulation or re-formulation. This is where we can help make a difference and really add value for SMEs.”
Dr Andy Kemp, Group Sales and Marketing Director of Bidfood, who made the opening speech at the event, said: “One cannot emphasise enough the importance of growing and nurturing our own fledgling British businesses like these that take the initiative to feed our ever-growing demand for innovation. This lab, and the expertise of the team who run it, will be crucial in changing the odds, and reducing the risk for those start-ups and small businesses who push the boundaries with the sort of exciting innovation that really moves the market forwards in the UK.”
Speaking about the University’s vision for the lab, Professor Paraskevas commented: “It’s one thing coming up with an innovative new concept, it is another building a successful new product or business on the back of it. Research and development is essential and that’s incredibly difficult and expensive to achieve if you are a small business. Our lab covers this gap.”