The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a government-backed programme charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU waste reduction targets, is appealing for applicants from the whole food supply chain.
The money will be made available through a special €11.8m (£8m) fund devoted to research into ways to reduce the six million tonnes of food waste that is thrown away each year in the UK.
Launched in November 2004, the fund has already awarded about £5m (€7.4m) to about 30 projects submitted by various companies. The projects have the combined potential to reduce food waste by about half a million tonnes, WRAP said.
Successful applicants for previous rounds of funding have included Coca-Cola, Asda, Tesco, Heinz, Coors, Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Northern Foods and Iceland.
WRAP is particularly keen to hear from project teams working in areas related to fresh meat and fish, chilled meat and fish products, fresh and chilled fruit and vegetables, chilled ready meals, dairy products and bread and other bakery products.
Applications can be made by organisations across the supply chain, including producers, retailers, designers, brand owners and research institutes.
As well as being a financial and resource drain, food waste in landfill makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gas production said WRAP project manager Andrew Parry.
"Innovative thinking across the supply chain can help to maintain food freshness for longer, help customers to buy only as much as they need and let them know if their food is still fresh," he said. "We are looking for proposals that will advance the sector's knowledge, while delivering significant reductions in food waste."
An average consumer discards over £400 (€592) of food each year, according to WRAP. This figure includes uneaten and spoilt food.
WRAP says some of the funding will be used for innovations aimed at reducing the amount of spoilt food being thrown out. The innovations include new designs for package closures aimed at extending shelf-life and the incorporation of freshness indicators to alert consumers.
The funding can also be used for research into new methods of harvesting and processing that would reduce food waste.
WRAP is also open to applications aimed at ways to improve the shelf life of loose, unpacked food kept in the home.
WRAP was set up to reduce all types of waste going into landfill. In addition to cutting the amount of food waste, WRAP also has funds devoted to reducing the amount of packaging being thrown away.
The deadline for applications under the food waste programme is 21 March 2007.
With a gross output of £65.7 billion, the food and drink business is one of the largest sectors in UK industry, accounting for 17 per cent of manufacturing gross domestic product (GDP). It has been subjected to various EU and UK laws preventing excessive waste, water use and emissions. Failure to follow the law can cost companies millions of euros in fines.
Envirowise claims that by sticking to the legislation and minimising wastage, companies can reclaim about 4.5 per cent of annual turnover that is lost every year on waste collection.
The UK's food and drink sector produces 14 per cent of the waste from all the sectors the Environmental Agency regulates, the second biggest producer after fuel and power.
It produced about two and a half million tonnes of waste in 2005, almost all of which was non-hazardous. The sector recovers 70 per cent ofits waste, above average for all the regulated sectors, Environwise stated.
Thirteen food and drink businesses received large fines for environmental offences in 2004. About 305 food and drink plant sites are now covered by the environmental legislation, many for the first time in 2005, the agency noted.