A £21 million digital project aiming to create 600 new jobs is set to help decarbonise South-West Scotland and Cumbria’s dairy industry.

The Digital Dairy Value-Chain, led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), could generate an additional £60m a year for a region which yeilds nearly two billion litres of milk annually.

Globally, the industry produces around three per cent of greenhouse gases related to human activity. As well as helping the region’s dairy industry fight harmful emissions, the project will help to develop and retain a skilled and innovative workforce in the area to create new products and new ways of working.

Working with partners operating in the area, including the University of Strathclyde, University of the West of Scotland, CENSIS, First Milk, Lactalis UK & Ireland, Kendal Nutricare, Cows & Co Group, National Milk Records and SmartSTEMS, the scheme will provide a platform for research and business innovation in advanced, sustainable, high-value production and processing.

The collaborative team will work with the dairy industry to develop and implement technologies for sensing and data handling, as well as infrastructure to support innovation and growth for local businesses, nurturing young entrepreneurs and teaching and training of new skills and capabilities.

It will deliver advanced manufacturing processes to create a fully integrated and traceable supply chain as well as help businesses to develop new products and explore new markets.

After receiving £21.3m from the UK Research and Innovation ‘strength in places fund’, the project will be based at SRUC’s Barony campus near Dumfries, as well as at sites in Cumbria and across South-West Scotland.

Professor Wayne Powell, principal and chief executive of SRUC, said: “This funding is wonderful news for the dairy industry in Cumbria and South-West Scotland, as well as for the renewal and decarbonisation of the industry as a whole. It will provide a world-class platform for business innovation in advanced, sustainable, high-value dairy production and processing. SRUC and our partners are excited to be moving to the next phase of this fantastic project.”   

Jo Lappin, chief executive of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The dairy industry is an important part of Cumbria’s economy and we are therefore delighted that SRUC has received £21 million to support the sector here and in South West Scotland.

“Digital Dairy Value-Chain will help to deliver more jobs in the sector, alongside stimulating research and innovation to support our farmers to develop their businesses. Importantly, it will also help to decarbonise the industry.”

UWS principal and vice-chancellor Professor Craig Mahoney said: “I am delighted UWS’s expertise will play a key role in this incredibly exciting project, which has the potential to deliver enormous real-world benefits for the region and the global dairy industry.

“At UWS, we believe in purposeful research that positively impacts on societies and, with the potential creation of 600 new jobs and a focus on enhancing sustainability, we are pleased to be involved in this important project.”

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The fantastic work the Digital Dairy Value-Chain is doing shows that science and innovation is not just for Silicon Valley start-ups, but for dairy farmers too. By using the latest technology for sensing and data handling, the industry will create jobs and opportunity across South-West Scotland and Cumbria.

“This £21.3 million investment is part of the UK Government’s innovation strategy we have published today, which outlines how we plan harness the skills and ingenuity of every corner of the UK in order to cement our status as a global science superpower.”