Highlands food and drink tech hub secures £3.2m investment from HIE
TechHUB, a part of the Northern Innovation Hub (NIH), has secured £3.2 million from HIE to create a food and drink techonolgy centre.
The funding includes £1.2m from the UK government as part of Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.
The NIH is a £14.2m initiative delivered by HIE under the deal, which focuses on developing innovation in small and medium sized businesses in the Highland Council area.
The funding approval includes costs of refurbishing Fyrish House at Teaninich Industrial Estate in Alness, a building owned by HIE, where the TechHUB will be housed.
The agency has appointed Highland based Colin Armstrong Architects for the design work required for appropriate consents. This will be in line with low carbon and net zero ambitions and will also include consultation with potential users of the hub.
Part of the building will be fitted out to allow the research, development and testing of new food and drink products and processes, with the remainder designed to allow fledgling companies to enter a more commercial world.
The development is expected to benefit more than 100 businesses over the next five years. It’s also forecast to be a catalyst for further opportunities in the food and drink sector and supply chain, including the creation of around 100 jobs as well as training opportunities.
The facility will provide a physical space to promote and support innovation in food and drink production and supply chains. It will accommodate start-up and existing businesses, allowing them to collaborate and develop.
Once consent has been secured, HIE will carry out a further tendering process to appoint a contractor for the capital refurbishment and fit-out works.
The decision to site the centre in Fyrish House follows an options appraisal conducted in 2018, which looked at sites for a new build. However, this was later discounted in favour of an existing building fit-out, which would deliver the project outcomes for a lower cost and in a shorter timescale.
A further options appraisal of existing buildings identified four potential sites and concluded that Fyrish House was the optimum solution and therefore the preferred option.
The 1000m2 building was built at the turn of the millennium as a call centre for BT, but has been unoccupied for the past few years.
Claire Munro, HIE’s senior project manager for the Northern Innovation Hub, said: “Developing the TechHUB in Fyrish House will bring the building back into productive use. Low carbon and net zero ambitions will be central to the refurbishment.
“Once completed, the centre will provide the supportive environment required to help Highland food and drink businesses develop innovative new products and processes, improve productivity and enhance the skills they need for commercial growth.”
UK government minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart, said: “Food and drink are one of Scotland’s big success stories with many future opportunities as the UK Government signs trade agreements to open up new markets.
“The creation of this food and drink technology centre will help the region’s businesses to unlock their potential, create jobs and bring investment to rural communities.
“The UK Government is supporting this project as part of £2 billion investment for levelling up across Scotland.”
Andrew Lilley, director at Colin Armstrong Architects, said: “We are delighted to be appointed to work with Highlands and Islands Enterprise on this exciting project. We are looking forward to helping to deliver a creative and sustainable fit-out which helps to drive innovation in the sector”
The Northern Innovation Hub project is funded with £11m from UK Government, £1.2m ERDF and £2m from HIE through the Inverness and Highland City Region deal, which is a joint initiative supported by up to £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and the University of the Highlands and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.
HIE has already awarded a £371,895 contract to SAC Consulting to provide a range of business support services for Highland-based food and drink companies.