Automation and digitisation in food and drink manufacturing presents unique challenges which can prevent UK manufacturers benefitting from rapid innovation in this area. There is potential to generate significant revenue as automation investment costs decline and productivity returns rise.

Sustainability and achieving net-zero emissions are key governmental and societal priorities. Clean sector growth will depend on new technologies that support low-carbon energy delivery. Adopting these technologies will be crucial to meeting demands.

Declining labour availability is also a challenge to which automation offers a solution, while providing an opportunity for the UK’s workforce to be upskilled significantly.

The FDF stays up-to-date with funding opportunities that arise from government need to address these challenges. Alongside this, we offer members access to research institutions and affiliates with relevant knowledge.

Updates & milestones

HVMC Food & Drink Sector Roadmap

The High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) is in the process of developing a roadmap for the UK’s food and drink sector with a focus on manufacturing.  The roadmap is to help ensure that the F&D sector remains competitive, safe and anchored in the UK.

When completed it will be come a tool to inform key stakeholders and help to support prioritisation of the sector with the UK government and funding bodies for the needs of the food and drink manufacturing sector. The project is in the process of finalising their work, after 6 months of workshops with a wide range of sub-sectors.  The roadmap will be published this summer.

Following publication, a period of engagement will begin where the HVMC and its stakeholders will use the Roadmap to define manufacturing solutions, research challenge and resource to support the sector.

For more information about this project, or to discuss how to get involved please contact Mark.


FDF Chief Executive contributes to report published by experts at the Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre

Speeding up adoption of industrial automation and robotics can lead to dramatic improvements in productivity, according to a new report just published by experts at the Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre and the Industrial Policy Research Centre, Loughborough University.

As a representative of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, the FDF Chief Executive, Ian Wright, was invited to share his views on the opportunities and challenges for accelerating adoption of automation and robotics in the industry.

"Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective" says that the slow uptake of robotics among British manufacturers, and a reluctance to invest in automation, has contributed to the country's vanishingly small improvements in productivity in recent years. But investment in automation along with reshoring manufacturing operations, can lead to new opportunities for UK businesses.

Mike Wilson, the MTC's chief automation officer and member of the FDF’s Technology Forum, said that the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in the UK's extended supply chains leading to a recognition that  there was a need to increase the resilience of UK manufacturing by increasing local content and reshoring production capacity.

The report, compiled by MTC and IPRC experts with contributions from major players in the world of automation, says the UK is 24th in the world for robot density in manufacturing businesses, and lags behind in productivity as a result. But the technology to turn the situation around already exists. The priority is to improve the rate of adoption.

The report can be found here.

FDF Product Innovation Award – Entries are now open!

Does your company carry out exceptional work, creating innovative new products?

Enter the FDF Awards - Innovation category before 28 February 2022, for your chance to win. It’s completely free to enter!

View the full criteria

Find out more about the FDF Awards

FDF Digital Transformation Award – Entries are now open!

Has your organisation planned and implemented a significant digital transformation project during 2021?

Enter the FDF Awards – Digital Transformation category before 28 February 2022, for your chance to win. It’s completely free to enter!

View the full criteria

Find out more about the FDF Awards

Digital Supply Chain - Why and how the UK food and drink industry should lead the way

On the 16th of September 10:00AM-11:30AM, the Digital Catapult will be hosting an event aimed at facilitating the building of a world class, digitised, sustainable and resilient food system, capable of responding to external shocks.

With our industry facing significant pressures across areas such as supply chains, labour supply and exports - this event couldn’t be more timely. Attendees will hear from industry experts, including FDF’s CEO, Ian Wright who will be part of a panel exploring the strategic challenges food and drink faces on funding and investment for innovation. There will also be opportunities to learn from technical experts at the Digital Catapult, as well as to participate in discussions on how to finance digital transformation and bring stakeholder networks together.

More information and registration


Karen Betts delivers speech at key annual dairy conference

FDF CEO Karen Betts speaks to attendees at the 2024 Semex International Dairy Conference and shares the FDF ‘Mission Possible’ strategy, which explores new opportunities for innovation and growth in dairy and across the food and drink manufacturing sector.

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Innovation Gateway: connecting businesses to technology

Find out more about our online platform to help manufacturers access the support needed to adopt new technology.

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Innovation Gateway: Unlocking the technology in food and drink

A unique collaboration making it easier for food and drink companies in England, Scotland and Wales to adopt cutting edge technology and grow their business has been launched today.

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