The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. and Michael Creed T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine today announced that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is to fund the development of a new National Food Innovation Hub at the Teagasc Moorepark Campus in Fermoy.
Speaking from the launch of the National Food Innovation Hub in Cork today, An Taoiseach welcomed the new facility, saying: “Small and medium sized agri-food businesses are already preparing for Brexit by taking an innovative approach and opening up new European and international markets outside of the UK. This new National Food Innovation Hub will help Irish businesses to innovate and expand, keeping our agri-food sector competitive and attracting investment in a post-Brexit world.”
Speaking at the announcement, Minister Creed said: “Food Wise 2025 identified Research, Development and Innovation as key drivers of competiveness in the agri-food sector. In this context, it recommended collaboration between industry and the research community to advance research and new product innovation. The National Food Innovation Hub is key to implementing this strategic recommendation.”
The primary objective of the National Food Innovation Hub is to create a business innovation network involving dairy companies, Moorepark Technology Ltd (MTL), incubator companies and public-private partnership based R&D programmes with a research focus on food processing, quality and nutrition. It involves constructing up to 12 customer application suites containing office and laboratory space, so that each company can have an on-campus presence to conduct new-product development etc.
The National Food Innovation Hub will be directly linked to both the Teagasc Food Research Centre and MTL to engender close collaboration between the research centres and the companies located on the Moorepark campus. It is envisaged that this unique food cluster will stimulate intensive collaboration between companies and Teagasc researchers to create a platform for innovation, economic growth and job creation.
The Minister added that “€8.8m of exchequer funding will be provided from my Department’s Capital allocation on a phased basis over 2018 and 2019 to fund the development of the National Food Innovation Hub. This is a strategically important project for Ireland’s agri-food sector, especially in the context of Brexit, which poses enormous challenges for the sector by virtue of its reliance on the UK market, and the associated challenges in developing new markets and value added products. It will also be a valuable tool to SMEs, as it will provide an opportunity to engage in research activities in an affordable way, allowing companies to scale up by collaborating with highly skilled internationally renowned Teagasc food researchers”
The investment in the National Food Innovation Hub comes on top of a €10 million investment by Teagasc and the dairy industry in MTL (Moorepark) to expand and upgrade its pilot processing facilities – this upgrade is currently underway. Speaking at the launch Teagasc Director of Research, Dr. Frank O’Mara said; “Innovation in the food industry is critically important to ensure that Irish companies continue to compete effectively in the market place, particularly in light of new and emerging challenges like Brexit. I would like to thank the Minister and the Department for their continued support and this investment on the Moorepark campus will assist Teagasc in providing infrastructure and expertise to support companies as they innovate and adapt in the future.”
Concluding his remarks, Minister Creed said that “The National Food Innovation Hub project is part of a broader strategic framework funded by my Department to encourage research and development in the agri-food sector. The inclusion of a large number of topics relating to food in my Department’s recent Call for Research Proposals very much underscores my commitment to this effort. Publicly funded research is now even more necessary to help drive innovation, competitiveness and long-term sustainability in the food sector as we prepare for Brexit. The food topics included in the Call have been carefully selected to help meet these pressing needs.”