R&D technologist Zoe Smart at work

R&D technologist Zoe Smart at work

Knowledge Exchange: Macphie

Ahead of tomorrow's Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards, we caught up with food ingredients supplier Macphie, who will be discussing their knowledge exchange journey as part of a panel session at the event.

Macphie has been involved in more than 15 individual collaborative research projects which have yielded cost savings to the business of many hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

Headquartered in Glenbervie near Stonehaven, Scotland, Macphie has supplied premium food ingredients to customers across 40 countries for almost 90 years. In the past, the company has funded PhD students but it had never collaborated with a university on research that was to be directly applied to its product portfolio. 

The company has worked with multiple universities on challenges across its business. The most well documented being in product development where the range of activity is broad and far reaching, from using ultrasound in baking, to reducing sugar significantly in their cake mixes and frostings. 

In packaging, the company has examined all of its processes with academic input. For example, redesigning and developing novel, corrugated materials as an alternative to plastic pails and altering the shape of the packaging to increase loading, is reducing the number of deliveries, resulting in significant cost savings. 

“Innovation is a cornerstone for Macphie, developing new technologies, products, processes and packaging to add value to our business and better meet our customer needs”, explained Macphie’s head of research and development, Martin Ruck. 

“Our R&D programme accesses external as well as internal ideas and capabilities. Using the cutting edge of universities through R&D collaborations with academia, it translates into new commercial technologies and is a key part of our overall strategy. 

“Macphie utilises Interface as a Scottish brokering service that brings businesses and universities together. Interface has facilitated a series of collaborative projects across a range of business requirements with Scottish universities. Using the Interface network, we have managed to completely accelerate our innovation agenda”, continued Martin. 

Macphie has built internal capacity and increased employee expertise in areas such as analytical techniques. In addition, the new products and improvements have created PR opportunities. Over the past two years, Macphie has achieved more than 90 articles in international trade publications and has seen an increase in new inquiries from abroad relating to some of the upstream, novel technologies being developed. 

Partnering with universities is part of Macphie’s long term R&D strategy. Martin’s advice to other businesses is to set out with a clear idea of what they want from the collaboration, how it might translate into the business and to be prepared to shop around to find the right partner. 

He concludes: “At Macphie we now have a rich heritage of academic projects across many aspects of our business. These translate into shaping and driving our innovation agenda. Interface is a crucial partner in enabling us to pair up with the very best academic organisations to achieve success. Our ongoing outlook is to continue to invest resources in long-term, transformational projects to ultimately add even greater value to our customer offering.”

Hear more from Macphie at tomorrow's Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards in Edinburgh.