Kent businesses and East Netherlands Development Agency forge partnership to grow international Agri-food research and innovation

A new agreement aimed at developing innovative food and drink trade and investment opportunities in the UK and the Netherlands has been signed today.

Tomatoes in LED-lit greenhouse

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by NIAB EMR, the fruit research centre at East Malling (Kent, UK), Locate in Kent and Oost NL, the East Netherlands Development Agency, is set to foster greater international links to explore scientific studies both regionally and internationally.

“The food we eat is sourced globally for the consumer,” commented Prof Mario Caccamo, Managing Director of NIAB EMR, continuing, “Never before have the opportunities and challenges for the agri-food sector been so great. Science drives the innovation, but we must look beyond the UK to wider European horizons to realise the opportunities that are out there.”

As part of the MoU, stronger linkages will facilitate joint initiatives where the combined strengths of the partners are “greater than the sum of the parts”. First up is the development of the ‘Growing Kent & Medway’ cluster, a partnership led by NIAB EMR supported by research organisations and food and drink industries from Kent. Further initiatives will be centred on close liaison to help strengthen and stimulate the economy of the regions involved.

“Kent is leading the delivery of innovation for the food and drink sector in the UK”, said Gavin Cleary, CEO of Locate in Kent. “Our region offers an amazing opportunity for establishment of businesses”, he added. “Our colleagues in the East Netherlands are global leaders in this sector demonstrating the impact that cutting-edge research and innovation can have in transforming food production and we are therefore delighted about the prospects from this collaboration”.

Oost NL has supported the development of the Foodvalley initiative which is the primary knowledge-intensive agri-food ecosystem in the Netherlands. More than 1,500 businesses employing more than 8,000 scientists are part of the Foodvalley. Since its establishment in 2004, the Foodvalley has built up a deep insight into the challenges of the agri-food industry and created a vast network of businesses, knowledge institutions and education providers.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to build new links with the ‘Growing Kent & Medway’ cluster”, said Fons de Zeeuw, board member and International Manager at Oost NL. “We believe in the added value of strengthening, connecting and growing the thriving food and drink industries in the Netherlands with other leading innovation regions in the world. We look forward to exploring the potential of this new partnership”.  


Based at East Malling in Kent, NIAB EMR is an internationally renowned plant science organisation conducting research on horticultural crops and their interactions with the environment, with particular emphasis on perennial and clonally propagated fruit crops. NIAB EMR is part of the NIAB Group, the UK’s fastest growing crop science organisation, with rapidly expanding research capabilities in plant genetics, agronomy, farming systems and data science, the largest national field trials capability, and strong research links with industry, Government and academia. NIAB’s headquarters are in Cambridge, with regional offices across the country, the largest of which is NIAB EMR in Kent. NIAB employs more than 400 people across the UK and provides scientific research, technical services and practical advice to improve the yield, efficiency and resilience of crop production across the arable, horticulture and top and soft fruit sectors.

About Locate in Kent

Kent is a business location like no other, on London’s doorstep, directly connected by rail to Europe with fast links to five international airports including Heathrow and home to six sea ports handling over £100 billion of trade each year. Locate in Kent is the official inward investment agency for Kent and Medway. Locate in Kent have helped more than 1,100 companies to succeed in the county providing free, confidential support to businesses setting up, expanding or relocating.

About Oost NL

Oost NL (East Netherlands Development Agency) is an agency that focuses its activities and projects on strengthening and stimulating the economy of the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel, the Netherlands. Oost NL offers companies from outside the Netherlands, as well as from other regions of the country, a ‘soft landing’ in East Netherlands. Through us, international companies gain access to our regional networks as well as assistance with trade promotion. We help owners of SMEs from East Netherlands to internationalize through matchmaking via our worldwide network of partners.