East Midlands business support organisation The Food and Drink Forum is campaigning to ensure that the food and drink sector in the region has a strong voice going forward.

The membership organisation wants to ensure that the industry in the East Midlands is effectively represented following the disbandment of regional development agencies in 2012.

East Midlands Development Agency (emda) has been a key partner for The Food and Drink Forum in support of the food and drink sector in the region. Now the Forum wants to ensure that the sector retains a strong voice once emda ceases to exist.

“The Food and Drink Forum has spent a lot of time focusing on understanding what the structure of public-funded business support may look like in the future,” said Fiona Anderson, managing director of The Food and Drink Forum.

“What is clear is that the funds coming into business support in the future will be significantly reduced, and that businesses will have to pay for more of the advice and guidance that they receive.”

The Food and Drink Forum, which is one of the largest food and drink business support organisations in the East Midlands and which represents a wide range of member businesses, has held talks with a number of key organisations that may be involved in business support for the sector in the future.

“Through membership of the English Food and Drink Alliance (EFDA), a direct dialogue has been opened up with DEFRA to ensure that the needs of food and drink businesses especially SME’s across England are communicated and represented,” said Fiona Anderson.

“We believe that BIS (Department of Business Innovation and Skills) will be setting up six offices across England and are hoping that one will be in our region. We have also been in talks with the emerging Local Enterprise Partnerships for the East Midlands region and have been party to their submissions to Government. We were pleased that all of the proposals incorporated support for the food and drink sector – recognising its importance as the largest manufacturing sector in the region.

“We have also been keeping a watching brief on emerging funding schemes such as the Regional Growth Fund and innovation initiatives to ensure that we can maximise the value of these for our sector.”

As a private, membership organisation, the Food and Drink Forum’s role in supporting the East Midlands food and drink sector will continue.

“Whilst there will be a reduced number of publicly-funded programmes which we are able to offer, a wide range of support services will still be delivered by The Food and Drink Forum, such as support for collaborative distribution and for manufacturing efficiencies, food technical services, and training and development courses,” said Fiona Anderson.

Based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, and covering Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, The Food and Drink Forum was launched in 1998 as a not-for-profit membership-led organisation to stimulate and support the sustainable growth and development of the food and drink industry in the East Midlands.

To find out more about The Food and Drink Forum, please visit www.foodanddrinkforum.co.uk or call 0115 9758810.

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