A new £4.8m R&D facility in Cheshire is aiming to take North West-based food and drink SMEs to the next level.

NoWFood, which is set to open in March and is located on the main campus at the University of Chester, will give SMEs access to food development technicians and test kitchens.

The facility also has a sensory unit with 10 cubicles for consumer testing of food and drink, as well as equipment such as food processors and packaging machines.

“Until now, there has been no one venue in the North West that offers a complete end-to-end product development and testing service to food producers,” said Maud Duthie, product manager for NoWFood.

“We want to help small producers to move away from their kitchens at home into serious, purpose-built facilities and upscale their production. The specialist technical support on offer can add real value to food or drink producers, and we want to help grow the £9.5bn valued food and drink industry across the region.”

The centre, which is co-funded by the University of Chester and the European Regional Development Fund, will give SMEs up to 12 hours of funded support. Duthrie added there would be an option for services to continue at “affordable rates” once the funded support period ended.

Service packages include an introduction to biosensory equipment that can screen products for additives and pathogens, food chemistry, dietary analysis, and food microbiology and shelf life evaluation.