Explore Food and Drink

Explore Food and Drink is a venture to support the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the food chain sector of the North West of England. The project is based at the University of Chester and is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The project will deliver training to develop leadership and technical skills, knowledge transfer support and networking activities to help businesses compete, expand and diversify.

RDPE - Artisan and Brewing Networks


Artisan Food Workshops   

Brewing Workshops




 All other workshops

Who can benefit?

Support is open to all SMEs in the food chain sector with the exception of primary production (agriculture) unless you want to diversify into secondary production.
An SME is any enterprise with fewer than 250 employees and either an annual turnover less than €50 million or net assets less than €43 million. The North West of England consists of the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire. There is no need for the head office of an SME to be in the North West as long as there is a postcode in the region that can be identified as belonging to the company.


How we can help you?

Training tailored to your needs.

Our workshops currently focus on two core areas of training:
•    Rapid analysis of food, feed and ingredients.
•    Craft brewing

Rapid analysis of food, feed and ingredients

This incorporates hands on rapid testing for contaminants, adulterants, food pathogens and allergens such as gluten or nuts. To be applied in any way you feel benefits your business.


Are your ingredients really gluten free? Testing ingredients on arrival to strengthen your USP and give your customers peace of mind.
Are you new to the allergen free market? Get up to date expert advice and guidance on the effects of allergens, allergen legislation and the impact they have on business.
Are you using the latest technology? Cutting edge technology is now available to rapidly test for all contaminants saving you time and reducing product recall.
Do you meet restaurant surface standards? Use rapid analysis as an early warning of slipping surface hygiene standards and highlight any danger areas.


Craft brewing

This includes all aspects of craft brewing from the ingredients to the distribution. Whether you’re diversifying your business or looking for advancements that can get you the edge, we can provide experts to show you how.

Duty is being reduced on beers of 2.8 % alcohol or less. Increase your profit margin by finding how to exploit this emerging market niche.
New to production or want to expand to the next stage? Experienced brewers will tell you how to scale up and project managers will show you how to achieve it.
Have you thought about selling to supermarkets or even markets overseas? British beer exports leaped a massive 24% between2009 and 2010. Find out how to appeal to the big players and get your bottles seen in the supermarche.
Could you benefit from contaminant testing? Show your beer is the best and brightest with the latest rapid testing techniques.
What about water? You may have the finest yeast, hops and barley but what about the largest ingredient of them all. Medipure have over a decade of experience with tailoring water qualities to every application, could water give your beer its USP?


Other specialities include


 • Food analysis for the food industry
 • Project management – For small businesses
 • Super Foods – Prebiotics, probiotics and antioxidants
 • Environmental management: Preparation for ISO14001
 • Nutritional analysis and food labelling
 • Food and Drink authenticity and fraud workshop
 • Introduction to food nanotechnology
 • Water quality management for food and drink manufacturing
 • Food structuring and texturing
 • Food safety and quality assurance
 • Emerging technologies in food processing
 • Food labelling

If your needs are not met by any of these areas please tell us. We are always eager to hear what you need rather than telling you what you want. 

We don't stop there

The University of Chester is a driving force for growth and innovation in the North West. Our assistance does not have to stop when you leave one of our workshops. At the University of Chester we have an experienced grant bid writing team with an exceptional success rate. We invite you to bring your ideas and input to bid for collaborative funding opportunities, such as EU funding and TSB spark awards that can provide 5K toward solving problems relevant to an SME. If we can help your business to expand let us know and we can carry on helping, by providing knowledge transfer, consultation and laboratory support to assist innovation in your SME.

Riverside Innovation Centre

If your business is just getting off the ground or you need some business advice, Riverside Innovation Centre can provide you with cutting edge professional development opportunities and breakthrough research. The state of the art real world and video conference facilities brings markets closer to you so networking is that much easier. With our food team and riverside’s business specialists behind you the Northwest is your oyster.

 University of Chester Food Innovation Centre - Funded by ERDF

Coming in 2013, University of Chester’s newest addition is already buzzing with interest from big brands and specialised manufacturers. The Food Innovation Centre will offer state of the art Nanotechnology, Rheology, Chemistry and Microbiology laboratories tailored to the needs of the food industry. The large industrial kitchen area will allow product development, showcase new equipment and processes, while the sensory suite will test customer appeal.
The Centre will also provide Accelerator units to stimulate new business, product and process development with expertise on hand from the academic core of the University. Set to complement the existing Riverside Innovation Centre, the University’s Food Innovation Centre aims to invigorate the food manufacturing industry with new processes, new technology and new ideas.


food centre 2

North West Craft brewing network

Bringing together knowledge from around the region the, North West craft brewing network aims to publicise the regions brewing traditions and provide a hub for cooperation and positive change in brewing.

Event sponsorship

The University of Chester sponsored the "favourite producer award" at the Liverpool Food Festival 2011.
It is also proud to support the Chester Food & Drink Awards 2012.  By sponsoring the award for the ‘Best Use of local produce on a menu’ the University has shown its commitment to supporting local food producers. All profit from the event goes directly to the Academy of Culinary Arts, which teaches children how to cook.

Chester's Project Team 


Project Director - Graham Bonwick
Project Manager - Garfield Southall
Program Development Manager - Cath Birch
Business Engagement Manager - John Banks
Project Administrator - Peter York
Laboratory Manager - Jane Dodd

Success Story


TopCat Research Ltd

TopCat Research Ltd is an SME that develops simple, rapid tests suitable for both on-site or laboratory use. These tests have a range of applications applicable to the food industry such as rapid detection of food contaminants, allergens and pathogens.
Following proof of concept work undertaken by the Food Nanotechnology Group at the University of Chester, TopCat Research Ltd was recently awarded £250,000 from the SPARK fund to support new product commercialisation.

C-Tech Innovation Ltd

C-Tech Innovation Ltd is an SME that develops novel food processing technologies that are more rapid and energy efficient in comparison to existing techniques. These devices can be manufactured for batch or continuous production and are scalable for enterprises ranging from micro-producers to large multi-nationals.
In response to interest expressed by various food processing industries, the Environmental Quality and Food Safety Research Unit at the University of Chester has worked with C-Tech Innovation Ltd to evaluate the impact of novel processing technologies on nutrients and antioxidants in food materials. Their effectiveness for pasteurisation, blanching and cooking of foodstuffs has been examined using many techniques such as microbiological screening, measurement of enzyme activity, microscopy, analysis of texture and sensory properties. Preliminary studies have indicated more rapid and controllable heating compared to traditional methods with better preservation of nutrients, anti-oxidants and colour. Other potential advantages include reduced energy consumption, product burn-on and equipment down-time for cleaning. Future work will examine changes in the levels of contaminants and allergens.