A new food innovation research cluster has been launched to help New Zealand lift the value of food and beverage exports to $60 billion by 2025, as suggested by the Government’s Business Growth Agenda. Meat exporters will be among the companies to benefit from its existence.
Food HQ was launched on 29 July at the Massey University Manawatu Campus by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, who was joined by Food Safety Minister Mikki Kaye.
The new Food HQ cluster is heralded as the largest concentration of food science and innovation expertise in the Southern Hemisphere. Its builds on the relationships already established in the Food Innovation NZ network that was launched in mid 2009 as a collaborative partnership between Massey University, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Fonterra, Riddet Institute (the National Centre of Research Excellence in Food and Nutrition) and the BioCommerce Centre supported by the Palmerston North City and Manawatu District Councils.
That marked the beginning of a pioneering phase of collaboration bringing together over 2,000 researchers, PhD students and educators involved in the food value chain to support new Zealand’s industries and the development of its future leaders. Building of the achievements and successes of the individual partners in strengthening the nation’s food innovation capacity, the new cluster has a 12-year planning horizon.
The partners’ mid-term goal for Food HQ is to rank in the top five food innovation centres in the world, in terms of economic and social impact. Other research and development organisations, food companies and their supporting industries are invited to co-locate with the cluster.
The plan through to 2025 includes the development of a fully integrated ‘super-campus’ in Palmerston North with about 4,000 public and private researchers, PhD students and educators involved in the food value chain. Designed to meet – or surpass – world bench marks, it will compare with other industry-centred innovation hubs in Denmark, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United States, explains project manager Mark Ward.
Reflecting a modernisation of the facilities in the Fitzherbert Science Park and Massey University, partners will upgrade current facilities and build new ones in consultation with each other, he said.
“Most importantly the super-campus will give current and future global customers one-door access to the very best in New Zealand food innovation. The collaborative approach creates a faster, easier way for food companies to work with the partners.”
The plan involves capital investment of $250 million leading to $230 million in added economic activity each year.
There are four areas into which the cluster will focus its efforts: to attract and retain talented people; world-class scientific research; modern, accessible science infrastructure; and to attract commercial investment.
“FoodHQ is a significant part of AgResearch’s plan to invest $100 million in its infrastructure and facilities across its four campuses and co-locate with our key research and sector partners,” says AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson. “There are many benefits to co-location and increased collaboration is just one of those. Much of our beyond-the-farm-gate science is already based here and we have existing projects with all of the FoodHQ partners. Increasing our commitment to work together through improving our physical infrastructure will ultimately benefit New Zealand’s export sector.”
For Distinguished Professor Paul Moughan, co-director of the Riddet Institute – the government funded Centre of Research Excellence in Food – this is New Zealand’s ‘time. “The moment for New Zealand to be a global leader in food innovation. I personally have a vision of a science-led industry adding value to its unique raw material, to produce specialised food ingredients, isolated proteins and premium branded products targeted to our Asian neighbours. The potential to develop smart-science inspired foods and food ingredients, targeted at increasingly health conscious consumers is very real.
“Such products are high value and command good profit margins and have the potential to completely transform New Zealand foods and the New Zealand economy.”
The Food HQ launch was attended by industry leaders involved in agri-food production, research and development, manufacturing and marketing. It followed an afternoon of seminars showcasing FoodHQ’s vital impact as the heart of New Zealand’s food innovation expertise and capability.