Dr Ed Smart

Dr Ed Smart explains how the Themes Research and Innovation Fund supported a successful collaboration.

  • 16 September 2019
  • 4 min read


I’ve been discussing research opportunities with Prof. Lisa Jack from BaL since the beginning of 2017. This focussed on exploring how machine learning could be employed in financial and food related sectors. It culminated in a small Innovate UK bid focussing on financial forecasting predictive algorithms, which was unfortunately unsuccessful (late 2017).

How did the Themes Research and Innovation Fund (TRIF) help?

Despite the failure of the bid, it was clear that there were strong opportunities for collaboration, particularly in the area of food safety and traceability. However, with busy roles in our respective departments, it was hard to find the time to fully identify the key challenges in this area. At the beginning of 2018, the TRIF awards were announced and it gave us the opportunity to do two tasks.

Firstly, it supported a research assistant who undertook a literature review of machine learning being applied to food supply chain traceability. This work was significant as it identified the challenge of obtaining usable data within the food industry. It is currently being written up for publication.

Secondly, it was used to fund visits to meet senior members of the national food safety enforcement authorities in Denmark and Scotland.  In Denmark, our hosts arranged a round table discussion with around 20 of the country’s leading food industrialists. Their insights helped shape the focus of an Innovate UK bid titled ‘Anomaly Detection for Food Supply Chains’. This was submitted November 2018 with an SME who sells specialist software to the food industry for managing food safety and authenticity. Despite over 800 submissions and with a success rate of less than 5%, the application was successful, and the project started June 2019.

Additionally, the Research Development Officer (Dr Louise Butt) was instrumental in supporting the progress of the TRIF award. Her own previous research experience was helpful in supporting us with the challenges of preparing a strong bid. 

To find out more about Themes and the opportunities for interdisciplinary research, please contact


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