Scottish university spin-out Insignia Technologies has landed an £865,000 investment which could make a dramatic impact on the 18 million tonnes of edible food we send to landfill each year.

Insignia's patented smart pigments and inks, developed at Strathclyde University, change colour when exposed to various gases or UV light, enabling a smart food label to show how long a packet of food is open.

Once food such as cheese or ham is opened, segments of the label will show brown for 'just opened', orange for 'use soon', and purple for 'past best.' Research projects are under way into similar systems for fresh fruit and vegetables, and cosmetics.

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Each year 18m tonnes of edible food ends up in landfill, costing the average family more than £600, and having the same impact in carbon emissions as a fifth of the cars on UK roads.

Iain Scott, chairman of Highland Venture Capital, said: "The recent press activity on the food wastage around supermarket foods draws into sharp focus the need and opportunity for a product like this."

The product was launched in March following a merger last year between intelligent inks business Insigniapack, and Novas Technologies, a spin-out company from Strathclyde University, where the technology was developed in the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

The funding package was led by Equity Gap, supported by Highland Venture Capital, the Scottish Investment Bank, the university, and private investors.

David Kilshaw, Insignia's chief executive, said it would enable the company, based at the Biocity incubator at Newhouse in Lanarkshire, to complete commercial trials with supermarkets and packaging companies in the UK, US and Europe, to grow its customer base, and, "as importantly", to fund its development programme.

Dr David McBeth, director of research and knowledge exchange services at Strathclyde University, said: "This represents the university's third significant investment in a growing spin-out company since the turn of the year and reflects its strategic commitment to economic growth in Scotland. Insignia is an exciting company that already has sales revenues and whose new generation products - based on the innovative work of Strathclyde chemists - will impact positively on many aspects of the supply chain for food and drink and other industry sectors."

Kerry Sharp, director of the Scottish Investment Bank at Scottish Enterprise, said: "Insignia Technologies is an excellent example of a Scottish company developing innovative new technology to address global problems."