The consortium, known as Growing Kent & Medway, has received a £50,000 seed-corn grant from the UK Research and Innovation Strength in Places Fund. This will be used to create a new cluster of universities, colleges and businesses that will bid for between £10m and £50m in further grants to carry out projects that will drive substantial economic growth.
The University’s involvement centres around the School of Biosciences, Kent Business School and the School of Economics. Other collaborators include the APS Group, Berry Gardens, Thanet Earth, Worldwide Fruit, Hadlow College and the University of Greenwich.
The collaboration will increase research capacity and co-invested industry engagement to drive innovation, commercialisation and novel training programmes in the region, which is home to over 40% of UK high-value horticultural production and a key gateway to global markets.
The consortium is led by NIAB EMR, which was established in Kent by the fruit-growing sector to address the many challenges faced by growers. Since its establishment, the team at East Malling have introduced wide-ranging advances to horticulture, that have shaped the way produce is grown and supplied to the consumer.
Professor Philippe De Wilde, Kent’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation, said: ‘This consortium is a perfect example of how universities can work with businesses and other partners regionally to boost innovation and investment through research and collaboration.’
Professor Mario Caccamo, Managing Director at NIAB EMR, said: ‘The announcement of this seed-corn funding is a major achievement and reflects the hard work and aspirations of the consortium partners to invest in, and grow, the regional economy.’