Defra has announced a new £15m fund to aid research in the food sector.

Grants totalling £15m will be on offer to large companies looking to invest in projects that will increase the efficiency of food production in the UK. Additional hand-outs totalling £500,000, worth up to £25,000 apiece, will be made available to smaller businesses.

The cash is being stumped up by Defra, alongside the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the Scots government.

“The UK has a world-class reputation for innovation,” said agriculture minister Jim Paice. “I want to take this strength and use it to the economic advantage of the whole country. That’s why the government is investing £15m in the development of cutting-edge ideas that increase efficiency and reduce waste in farming, food and drink production and manufacturing.”

Welcoming the news, FDF competitiveness director Angela Coleshill said: “This funding could help businesses invest in the new infrastructure needed to meet overseas demand for great British-made brands, which in turn not only creates new jobs here in the UK, but also helps to safeguard existing ones.”