Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD turned the sod on a new €8.8 million National Food Innovation Hub at the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy on Monday as part of Project Ireland 2040.
The investment is being made with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to support innovation in the food industry, thus enabling companies to become Brexit-ready while also generating market-focused research initiatives.
The concept of the Food Innovation Hub is straightforward: the new world-class facility will allow (national or international, dairy and non-dairy) companies to rent high quality laboratories and offices to locate their own Research & Development (R&D) teams within the Teagasc Moorepark Research Centre.
These teams will collaborate with Teagasc researchers and access state of the art laboratory equipment and the recently upgraded (€10 million investment) adjacent ultra-modern Moorepark Technology Limited (MTL) pilot plant facility.
The addition of the new Food Hub provides a unique environment for food companies, greatly enhancing their research and innovation capacity and ability to innovate to reach new markets abroad.
The investment complements a recent €10 million investment by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine in the Prepared Consumer Foods Centre, which is based at Teagasc Ashtown.
Speaking at the sod turning, Minister Michael Creed said: “There are many features that make the location of the Food Innovation Hub an attractive offering for companies including access to advanced analytical laboratories, pilot plant infrastructure, critical mass in R & D, and an opportunity to connect with world leading food scientists.
“The Teagasc Food Research Programme is internationally recognised and spans the entire food chain, from production at farm level to processing operations and analytical testing. It focuses on industry relevant research and its success is built on its specialist nature, innovative capacity and research infrastructure.
“Furthermore, the ability to access a state of the art pre-commercial pilot plant, Moorepark Technology Ltd (MTL), is extremely attractive for companies active in the R&D space”.
The Chairman of Teagasc, Liam Herlihy, acknowledged the support provided by the Minister and his department throughout the development phase of this concept Food Hub, and for providing the funding for the infrastructure.
“The Food Innovation Hub will contain private industry units with secure dedicated offices and laboratories that can be rented to locate R&D staff on-site to carry out company specific research. Dr Mark Fenelon, Head of the Teagasc Food Programme highlighted some of the specialised scientific facilities within the Food Programme that Hub-based companies can access.
“These include, for example, the Teagasc DNA Sequencing Centre, National Food Imaging Centre, Flavour Chemistry Facility, Bioactive Protein Discovery Unit, Bio-Functional Food Engineering Facility and Rheology suite.”
Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said the combination of highly qualified staff, extensive facilities and national and international linkages makes Teagasc Moorepark an ideal location for the Food Innovation Hub.
“By renting a unit, both national and international companies have the opportunity to leverage world-class resources to enhance their own research and innovation programmes. The Hub concept provides a unique offering that can form part of Enterprise Ireland initiatives to secure foreign direct investment with international companies.
“It provides opportunities at Teagasc for collaborative research with Industry that can even extend to tripartite arrangements between Teagasc, a national and international company.”
Professor Boyle continued: “Access to the Food Programme and MTL ensures participation in a number of national virtual research initiatives including Enterprise Ireland’s industry-led centres Food for Health Ireland (FHI) and Dairy Processing Technology Centre (DPTC), and the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded APC Microbiome Institute and the recently funded Vistamilk SFI Agri-tech research centre which is led from Teagasc, Moorepark”.
The Food Hub is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2020, and has generated strong interest across the food research sector with close to 90% of available spaces already pre-let.