€7 million in funding to deliver new food and agricultural programme

by Alison O'Hanlon
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The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Simon Coveney has committed €7 million in funding, over the next six years, to UCD to deliver a new food and agriculture innovation and entrepreneurship training programme, in partnership with Teagasc.

The focus of the Food and Agriculture Sustainable Technology Innovation Programme (FAST-IP) is to increase innovation knowledge within the food and agriculture sector leading to the creation of more high potential start-ups (HPSUs) and jobs in this sector of the economy. 

The programme forms part of Enterprise Ireland’s Innovators’ Initiative which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

FAST-IP will be delivered by the UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering, in partnership with Teagasc, at the newly opened AgTechUCD Innovation Centre at UCD Lyons Farm in Co. Kildare. 

The Minister said: “Ireland’s Sustainable Food and AgTech industry is already a success and nationally important, contributing an estimated €8 billion to the economy and employing over 160,000 people. This programme will further enhance innovation in the sector by providing participants with the necessary skills to evaluate, select and validate ideas for new products and services. Over the lifespan of the programme, FAST-IP is expected to contribute to the creation of new Sustainable Food and AgTech SMEs and High Potential Start-Ups, with the potential to create hundreds of new jobs in the process.”

FAST-IP will have 5 intakes of 15 participants, beginning in September 2024 and running until the end of 2029. The 12-month in-person programme, aimed at mid-career professionals, is accredited by UCD at Level 9 on the National Qualifications Framework. Participants who complete the programme will be awarded a Graduate Diploma in Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

The entrepreneurial training programme will use design-thinking methodologies and will have a practical focus. Through the programme participants will learn how to conduct needs-led innovation to develop market validated solutions to unmet needs in the areas of agricultural technology and food sustainability sectors. The programme’s focus will be on the immersive experience and participants will spend 8-10 weeks immersed in agricultural environments including farms and food processing companies throughout the year long programme. 

Marina Donohoe, Head of Research and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland, said: “The agri-food sector is an integral part of the Irish economy and society, both nationally and regionally, in particular for rural communities. Through the Innovators’ Initiative funding announced today FAST-IP will further build resilience and strengthen innovation within the agri-food sector through training and entrepreneurship leading to the creation of more start-ups with global potential and jobs across the country.”

Gary Ryan, Director, AgTechUCD Innovation Centre, said: “The key objective of FAST-IP is the creation of a pipeline of commercialisation fund applications and an increase in the number of HPSUs in the sustainable food systems and AgTech sectors. The exciting and dynamic programme will deliver a unique perspective to the participants in each cohort that will position them to carry out real-world needs identification and follow that through with innovative, realistic, and commercial solutions.”

Featured Image: Gary Ryan, Director, AgTechUCD Innovation Centre; Dr Siobhán Jordan, Head of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, Teagasc; Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Marina Donohoe, Head of Research and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland and Professor Nick Holden, UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering and Academic Director, FAST-IP.

Picture: Paul Sharp, Sharppix

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