May 21 2013 Latest news:
By shaun lowthorpe Business editor
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Norfolk food firms are poised to play a leading role in developing greater collaboration on innovative new products over the next two decades - an industry conference was told today.
Companies from across the region came together with academics and officials from the Norwich Research Park and John Innes Centre at the Hethel Engineering Centre event to see how teaming up to work on hi-tech innovations could help boost the bottom line.
The event was the first to be organised by Hethel Innovation, a new company created to boost links, research and development in sectors from food to automotive engineering.
Richard Seager, technical director, of Norwich-based Marel, producers of one of the world’s fastest bacon slicers, said: “About 80pc of our output is exported around the world and we have products and services which we supply globally.
“The reason I was here is that we are searching for technology partners and I would like to find potential suppliers of world-leading technology that’s relevant to our product range.”
Steve Evans, engineering manager at Sinclair International Ltd, based in Bowthorpe in Norwich, which produces fruit labelling equipment, said: “In our market we export most of our products.
“I’m interested in procurement and identifying people in the area who have got the same sort of issues that we have.”
Nigel Cushion, chairman of speciliast premium party food producers Frank Dale Foods, based at Bunwell, near Attleborough, said the conference was a great way of bringing together businesses to offer mutual advice and solutions to common problems and opportunities.
“The food industry is going through some very exciting and challenging times, but people aren’t getting together and sharing their expertise and encouraging each other,” he said. “Anyone running a small family business can be quite isolated and it’s great to get encouragement and support from your peers.
“We are at a very exciting growth phase and if we can learn from others that will help carry us forward. We are competing in an international market place and this is where we need to go to improve our competitive position and raise our horizons.
Stuart Catchpole, innovation manager at Hethel Engineering Centre, said: “In the next 20 years, many businesses will be working together - and we are looking to bring them together to work on new projects, which will help grow the knowledge economy.”
Norfolk turkey giant Bernard Matthews is in talks to sell a stake in the business.