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Ulster University has completed its 500th Innovation Voucher project and is now recognised as one of the leading knowledge providers on the island of Ireland for the programme.

Through the programme, Ulster University has been helping small and medium sized businesses to innovate and grow by providing leading expertise in everything from health and manufacturing to advanced engineering and sustainable technology. The Innovation Voucher programme is funded by both Invest Northern Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

Ulster University’s latest Innovation Voucher project, which was funded by Invest Northern Ireland, was carried out to support Limavady based business, The Gourmet Mallow Company, an artisan company making hand-crafted, specialty marshmallows.

As part of the Innovation Voucher project, the company accessed specialist expertise from Ulster University’s Food and Consumer Testing Suite to enable it to analyse calorie count and extend the shelf life of its products.

Yolande Shannon, owner of The Gourmet Mallow Company, said:

“Accessing expert knowledge from Ulster University has been a tremendous boost for the business. Along with the research on extending the shelf life of the mallows, we now have valuable nutritional information that is a requirement for selling in larger quantities. This is a huge benefit to us in terms of attracting new outlets for our products and opening up opportunities for export.

“We recognise that innovation is key to continuing success and have already developed over 20 different flavours including banoffee pie, rhubarb and custard, mint choc chip, cookies and cream, salted caramel and Turkish delight. Our lemon meringue mallow was awarded gold in the confectionery section of the 2016 Blas na hEireann, The Irish Food Awards.

“We are continuing to experiment with flavours and in the future hope to work closely with Ulster University again to further develop our range of sugar free and vegan mallows.”

Dr Amy Burns, lead researcher on the project added:

“Through the Innovation Voucher programme, businesses can tap into Ulster University’s leading expertise in food and consumer testing to help them to gain competitive advantage in the local and international markets.

“Just like The Gourmet Mallow Company, businesses can access Ulster University’s state-of-the-art Food and Consumer Testing Suite which offers fully equipped kitchens, sensory testing booths, consumer research facilities and a nutritional analysis laboratory’.

Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI Director of Innovation, Research & Development said:

“I would like to congratulate Ulster University on delivering its 500th Innovation Voucher project.

“Innovation is absolutely essential to economic growth. We first introduced the Innovation Voucher programme in 2008 and since then have offered over £7.5million of Invest NI support to more than 1,480 businesses through the programme.

“These businesses have been able to develop new and improved products and services as well as tapping into research and scientific expertise.  As the Gourmet Mallow Company experience demonstrates, this investment in innovation and developing new products can lead to new customers and increased exports.”

The next open call for Invest Northern Ireland’s innovation voucher applications will run from Monday 24 April to 3pm Friday 12 May. Visit Invest NI for more information.