Scotland has opened a new research facility to boost its capacity for innovation in the food and drink industry.

Based at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, the center for food development and innovation is expected to enhance Scotland’s position as a leader in food and drink innovation in Europe and support access to the global market for healthy and functional food.

The facility — the first of its kind in Scotland — includes a dedicated microbiology laboratory, a fully-equipped sensory suite and a technology room to test the latest devices, STV News reported.

Experts at the research center will help Scottish food and drink businesses with ingredient development; improvements in product processing and preservation; nutritional analysis; shelf life testing; and consumer focus groups and taste panels.

Product development and analysis will, for example, work on healthier alternatives to fat, salt and sugar.

Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and the environment, said that Scotland’s food and drink producers are internationally recognized for their quality.

“The work of the center is helping those companies evolve to meet new demand, develop new products and diversify into new markets, particularly lucrative export opportunities,” he explained.

James Withers, CEO of industry body Scotland Food and Drink, also welcomed the launch of the new facility.

He said: “Relationships between the industry and Scotland’s universities are critical. My ambition is that this new center will provide producers with intelligence and support, to help them create exciting new products and in turn find new customers.”