Small food companies have the chance to win a share of £50,000 funding after Defra launched a voucher scheme through its Food Innovation Network (FIN).

The funding forms part of a competition aimed at pushing the boundaries in food business innovation to kick-start the next generation of food production.

The scheme connects food and drink producers with facilities such as test-kitchens, laboratories and the expertise to help them create new and innovative products and production methods.

The winners will be those who demonstrate their ideas are novel, achievable and support business growth.

The money will allow food producers to invest in a wide range of innovative projects, such as reducing the use of water in growing vegetables, and creating new business opportunities.

Micro, small and medium sized food and drink businesses will be able to compete for one of ten £5,000 FIN vouchers – with matched funding from industry by pitching their innovative projects to a ‘Dragons’ Den’ panel of industry and technical experts.

Food Minister George Eustice said: “Some of our most innovative food businesses are smaller companies and each has unique challenges, from prolonging the shelf life of their products to developing new sources of protein.

“This new fund is aimed at helping support small businesses with a bright idea to develop their concepts in partnership with researchers or academic institutions.”

The competition, run on behalf of Defra by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), will support projects of three to six months.

Applicants will need to submit an initial two-minute video pitch and a short description setting out their innovative business opportunity.

All ideas will need to demonstrate the need for research and development, innovation in the proposed solution, path to commercial application(s), nature of market opportunity and value for money.

Companies looking to apply for funding through the scheme can click here.