Announcing the October call for applications, Jeremy Fitch, Invest NI’s Executive Director of Business Solutions, said: “Our Innovation Voucher scheme is open to small and medium sized businesses with an innovative project that would benefit from the input and expertise from a University, College or other publicly funded research organisation. This could involve a new product, process, technique or using research and scientific know how to help them grow sales.”
Crust and Crumb used an Innovation Voucher to access the expertise of technologists at The Food Technology Centre, St Angela’s College in Sligo to develop a range of award winning stuffing. The business now produces stuffing for chicken products supplied to customers such as Tesco, Dunnes and Lidl.
The company’s continued focus on innovation has also resulted in the development of its gluten free pizzas that are high in protein and low in fat. It has successfully taken this product range to market and now supplies pizzas to online business MuscleFood for its UK customer base.
The company manufactures fresh pizzas for the retail sector and part baked frozen pizza bases for the food service industry.
Speaking about his experiences, Sales Executive Mark McCaffrey said: “A focus on innovation has enabled us to create niche products in new markets which has increased our turnover by £500,000. We are currently supplying a new range of pizzas to MuscleFood and have recruited five new employees to cope with the uplift in orders.”
Jeremy Fitch added: “Crust and Crumb is an example of a small business which tapped into specialist knowledge to successfully expand its product range to targeting niche markets. The company has focused on improvement and product development as a means to grow the business. The contract with MuscleFood is already making a valuable impact on its sales levels.
“Invest Northern Ireland sees Innovation Vouchers as a valuable assistance mechanism and we want to encourage SMEs including sole traders, partnerships and limited companies to consider if there is an idea or issue to be explored that could help you compete more effectively and access the support.”
Innovation vouchers are worth up to £5,000 and the closing date for applications is 3pm on Friday 23 October. For more information and to apply go to investni.com/innovation.