England's regional food groups have appointed a new chair to fight their corner as the final axe swings over their funding.

Colin Dennis, ex director general of food research institute Campden BRI, took the helm at the English Food & Drink Alliance fomerly the Regional Food & Drink Alliance this week as members prepared to step up their lobbying at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair (5-7 September).

The eight food groups many of which rely on the Regional Development Agencies for funding fear their days are numbered now the RDAs are to be abolished and the new Local Economic Partnerships (LEP) will be setting the business agenda in the regions.

Dennis said his role was to make sure government understood the key role regional food and drink manufacturers played in securing the UK's food supply and driving innovation among SMEs.

In some areas, food and drink was seen as low priority and the groups were in danger of losing out to other sectors in the fight for funds from the coalition's £1bn regional growth pot.

Conversations have already taken place with ministers to drive home the importance of the work of the groups, which collectively advise about 10,000 businesses.

The alliance will thrash out a campaign in October directly after publication of the comprehensive spending review, which is expected to spell out how the regional growth fund will work.

"Our main concern is to ensure food and drink is on the radar in all LEP areas, with a focus on the creation of private sector jobs," said alliance founder Jonathan Knight, CEO of the Regional Food Group for Yorkshire and Humber.

It was vital that government retained some sector lead funding to be dispensed according to national priorities for food and drink, he said. "That's where the alliance can deliver best value throughout the country, or some sub-national areas will fall behind."