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Irish food at the centre of excellence

Ireland’s first centre of excellence for start-up, micro- and small-food businesses recently opened in Galway following investment of more than €8m

BIA Innovator Campus has been established to drive regional and national growth in Ireland’s agri-food sector and is designed to facilitate the launch and development of new and existing food businesses at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey.

The new state-of-the-art campus spans three buildings over 23,000 square feet, is co-located on Teagasc’s (Agriculture and Food Development Authority) Mellows Campus, and is the first of its kind in Ireland.

Addressing the food community’s specific need for food-grade workspace, the campus offers four fully kitted-out pay-per-use production units and 12 independent ‘own door’ production units for lease. The campus also comprises a 60-seat auditorium with culinary demonstration space, 14-station culinary training centre, 12 hot desks to allow BIA tenants and non-tenants to work, a podcast studio, a showcase room, and a range of meeting rooms available for rent to tenants and non-tenants alike.

In addition to these facilities, the BIA Innovator Campus team also provides a powerful mix of technical, innovation and commercial supports to the food community and benefits from direct links to research, development, and innovation within the Teagasc food programme.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar officially opened the new campus, commenting that it will contribute to the national development of our most important indigenous sector – agri-food. “Irish food producers have an enviable reputation for quality at home and around the world. As the country and the sector transition towards more sustainable production, it is essential that we increase the value of our food to maintain rural and regional jobs.” 

General manager of the BIA Innovator Campus, Elaine Donohue, said: “Our focus at BIA is to help facilitate strong business and manufacturing foundations for Ireland’s micro- and small-food producers. Teaching good standards at an early stage will assist in growing sustainable livelihoods and achieving business goals. We have seen from Bord Bia’s most recent Export Performance and Prospects report that Ireland’s food and drink exports are now valued at €16.3bn. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this buoyant sector and we are delighted to now officially open the campus offering affordable access to production spaces, knowledge, and innovation resources.”

More than €8m has been provided in capital funding from Enterprise Ireland, Department of Rural and Community Development, Galway County Council, Teagasc, Galway Rural Development/LEADER and the Western Development Commission to deliver the project. The BIA Innovator Campus has the highest impact collaboration of public, industry, community, and education backing assembled to date in the Irish food sector. 

In addition to the on-site spaces, the BIA Innovator Campus will host a calendar of in-house events as well as facilitating several education and training courses delivered by the Galway Roscommon Education Training Board. Looking to build knowledge, relationships, and opportunities outside of Ireland, the BIA Innovator Campus is currently active in the EU project sphere and working on a number of European food and entrepreneurship-focused Erasmus+ and Interreg projects. 

Enterprise Ireland chair, Michael Carey, said: “BIA Innovator Campus will be a game changer for Galway and the Atlantic Economic corridor. The state-of-the-art incubation and food production facilities, alongside the business and technical supports provided, will enhance the strength, resilience and innovation of new and existing food businesses in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland has been proud to support BIA Innovator with funding of more than €5m, mainly through the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), to support the growth of the indigenous food sector.”

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