Transformational SeedPod project reaches key milestone

City Region Deal partners hail progress on critical ingredient for food and drink sector growth

Wednesday, February 10, 2021
A planning application for the £21 million Seedpod industry development hub has been submitted to Aberdeen City Council. This is a crucial milestone for the project to realise industry’s ambition to double the size of north east Scotland’s £2.2 billion food and drink sector.

Led by Opportunity North East (ONE), the transformational SeedPod investment will put the region's manufacturing and processing businesses at the forefront of innovation, productivity and sustainability, increasing high-value exports and creating new jobs. It will play a key role in green economic recovery, helping businesses and the sector deliver low-carbon production and contribute to net-zero goals.

SeedPod aims to increase sector turnover by 5% per annum. It will help established companies accelerate growth through innovation and technology adoption, market and product development, global consumer focus and provide start-up production space and development facilities for high-growth new businesses.

SeedPod will be located on Scotland Rural College’s (SRUC) Craibstone campus, near Aberdeen. A public procurement process is underway to appoint a main contractor for the construction phase, with the new-build project programmed to start later this year.

SeedPod includes £10 million of capital funding provided jointly by the UK Government and Scottish Government via the Aberdeen City Region Deal (ACRD) – a partnership between both governments, ONE, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council. ONE is the lead ACRD partner for delivery of SeedPod, has committed £4.4 million of funding towards the delivery of SeedPod’s objectives and has set up Food Hub (NES) Limited with an industry board to deliver the project. SRUC is a strategic delivery partner and is providing the site for SeedPod.

Patrick Machray OBE is chair of Food Hub (NES) Ltd and vice chair of ONE. He said: “SeedPod is the critical ingredient that will help north east Scotland's significant food and drink sector to innovate, accelerate growth, increase productivity and target foods of the future products at high-margin markets. It will provide young businesses with essential space to grow in its production incubator units, support established companies with productivity and market development, and is a strategic asset at a critical time for national sector recovery and growth.

“This is a transformational project for realising the sector’s green growth ambition. SeedPod will increase the value of exports and the jobs that food and drink manufacturers and processors provide in rural and urban communities.

"Speed of delivery and impact are the focus for the Food Hub (NES) board and our partners. SeedPod will be the place to grow together and engage with our most exciting companies of the future and ambitious established businesses," said Mr Machray.

SeedPod will be the go-to industry development hub providing specialist support and facilities for growing start-up, early-stage and established businesses that include:
• sector-specific business growth, leadership and mentoring programmes;
• access to global consumer and market insights;
• 12 commercial-grade manufacturing and production incubator units and two development kitchens; and
• full-service managed production and storage space; presentation areas; co-working and collaboration space, and demonstration space to pilot processes and technology.

More than 22,000 people work in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire food and drink businesses. The region accounts for more than 20% of Scotland’s total food and drink outputs with sustainable, premium supply chains from farm and fishery to consumer.

The sector's growth is essential to the region's future economy. It supports the national drive to premiumise food and drink in global export markets while supporting higher-value jobs and manufacturing at home.

Regional and national partners emphasised the importance of the project to economic recovery, sector growth and jobs.

Councillor Jenny Laing, chair of the Aberdeen City Region Deal Joint Committee and co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “SeedPod will deliver on the north east’s ambition to grow the size and value of the food and drink sector. The new facility will make a real difference to all areas of the industry to inspire established businesses to innovate and grow and to nurture the next generation of start-ups in the region.”

Aberdeenshire Council leader Councillor Andy Kille said: “Aberdeenshire is known internationally for the quality of its food and drink, and the produce generated in our area is second to none. To have this facility on the doorstep of local producers allows them to be at the heart of the future of their sector and drive the innovation for which Aberdeenshire is known.”

UK Government Minister Iain Stewart said: “SeedPod is an exciting project that will help to bring new jobs and opportunities to communities across north east Scotland. This is a great example of the UK and Scottish governments working together with regional partners to support innovation and growth in Scotland’s iconic food and drink sector. Across Scotland, the UK Government has committed more than £1.5 billion to growth deal projects that will help us to build back better from the pandemic.”

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “Across Scotland we have so far committed more than £1.9 billion to City Region and Growth Deals and additional investments. The Scottish Government is a full partner in the Aberdeen City Region City Deal, contributing £125 million over 10 years. The investment in this project through the Deal will contribute to the region’s economic recovery by creating jobs and providing the commercial infrastructure to support and attract businesses to Aberdeen and the surrounding areas. The SeedPod project highlights the importance of this Deal and demonstrates the ability to provide support and opportunities to those who need it most.”

Professor Wayne Powell, Principal and Chief Executive of SRUC, said: “SeedPod is an exciting venture, partner and new neighbour for SRUC. We’re looking forward to working with SeedPod to help grow the natural economy from field to fork.”

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