Food Innovation Centre

Food Innovation Centre expert on panel at Defra’s Food & Drink Summit

Thursday, 23rd March 2023


News 2023 Alice at Defra Food and Drink Summit March 2023
Senior Food Innovation Advisor at the Food Innovation Centre Alice Jones was on the panel of an Innovation Workshop held as part of Defra’s National Food and Drink Summit held at The Oval.


The event was the chance for food and drink manufacturing businesses across England to come together, network and share best practice.

It focused on four key opportunities for growth:

  • Resilience and finance
  • Skills
  • Innovation
  • Routes to market

There was also an opportunity for producers to meet a buyer from ASDA.

The event was opened with a speech from Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries at Defra, Mark Spencer, followed by a Q&A from the Deputy Director for the Food and Drink Quality and Partnerships Division at Defra, Ananda Gupta.

Alice Jones was a panel member of the Innovation Workshop, which focused on support available to food and drink manufacturers from Innovate UK, universities and other industry bodies. It also featured insight from innovative food and drink SMEs including tempeh products producer Better Nature, which received support from the Food Innovation Centre in its infancy, and energy snacks and breakfast products producer TRIBE.

Finance and Resilience Workshop

Chaired by Floortje Hoette (Produced in Kent), this session explored key SME resilience issues, including looking at the role of finance, using a dedicated small business toolkit developed for the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) by Dr Maria Wishart (Warwick Business School). The self-help toolkit used throughout the session is available freely on NICRE’s website 

Video recording of workshop is available. 

Skills Workshop

This session was led by Louise Cairns (National Skills Academy for Food & Drink) and explored some of the Government programmes available to SMEs to help them recruit new staff and upskill existing employees. These include the use of Apprenticeships, Skills Bootcamps and Sector Based Work Academies.

Video recording of workshop is available.

Innovation Workshop

Chaired by Simon Baty (Innovate UK) this session brought together Alice Jones (University of Nottingham Food Innovation Centre and Melton Mowbray Food Enterprise Centre), Christopher Kong (Better Nature) and Rob Martineau (TRIBE) to discuss what it means to be an innovative business and the support available for SMEs to innovate.

Video recording of the workshop is available.

Export Academy Workshop

In this session, Irina Shmakova (Export Academy Adviser) and Emma Johnson (Food and Drink Regional Sector Specialist at the Department for Business and Trade) give an overview of food and drink exporting in the UK, and the support that the Department for Business and Trade can offer to SMEs looking to begin their exporting journeys. See our how-to guide here: Exporting.

Video recording of the workshop is available.

Routes to Market Workshop

Chaired by Rachel Mallows (Food from England), this session brought together Tim Radcliffe (NHS England), Abi Adefisan (Yumchop) and Ollie Winters (Fever-Tree) to discuss the routes to market that are available to food and drink SMEs, including direct to consumer sales, public sector procurement, retail and exports. For more information on these routes to market, see our how-to guides: Direct to Consumer sales Public Sector Food and Catering.

Video recording of workshop is available.

Routes to Retail

In conversation with a buyer – Marking the launch of our how-to guide on Routes to Retail, SALSA’s Jacqui Slatter is joined by Eleanor Barns-Graham from Ocado, to discuss what SMEs need to know about supplying to retailers.

Video recording of workshop is available.



For details about who to contact for queries regarding the Food Innovation Centre, please visit our contact us page.