Food Wise 2025

Chapter 6 – Delivering Growth

Innovation

Innovation will continue to be a key driver of competitiveness and growth for the Irish Agri-food sector.  The development of new technologies, products and processes will drive productivity improvements, sustainability and growth in the sector over the next ten years.  Ireland must continue to increase investment in research and development in particular to increase the levels of private sector investment in RDI.  This investment should be directed at the most relevant areas to ensure that production efficiency is maximised and value added to our agri-food produce so that our products are competitive on domestic and international markets which we are targeting to deliver economic growth.

The Irish infrastructural research and development network in the agriculture and food areas is extensive and has embraced much change over the past 15 years.   The principal research institution types within the Irish research and development infrastructure, namely Teagasc, the University network, the Institutes of Technology, Marine Institute and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, with specialist units in each of the four key research areas: agriculture, food, marine and forestry.  The primary Agri-food sector can therefore be considered to be well served by broad research infrastructure. In addition the Government’s Research Prioritisation Action Group has identified that two of the fourteen priority areas be related to agri-food sector– ‘Sustainable Food Production and Processing’ and ‘Food for Health’. A strategic research and innovation agenda for these two areas (SHARP – Sustainable Healthy Agri-Food Research Plan) was developed in 2014.

RDI in the agri-food sector also faces some key challenges with the current system and ensuring that research investment delivers maximum economic returns.  There are gaps in terms of transforming scientific research into commercial returns and in terms of the ability of Irish companies given their lack of scale in many cases to deliver in house innovation and to absorb the high quality research developed by our research institutes.  Bridging these gaps will be crucial if Ireland is to realise maximum benefits from the investment it is making in agri-food research.  Ireland is a leading exporter of food products, products which are being demanded by consumers around the world. However these consumers have very different demands/requirements depending on the country or region they live in and/or depending on their life-stage.  As consumers are the ultimate purchasers of Irish food products the development of the Irish food sector must be focussed on delivering what these consumers want. The sector must also recognise and pre-empt the challenges in the decade ahead to retain and secure competitive advantage.

It is this consumer led focus which must be a key driving force of ongoing and future investment in innovation, research and development.  Everything the sector does should have a  focus on delivery for the customer who will consume Irish products so product innovation must have those consumer requirements at their heart and those consumer requirements must be the basis for investment in innovation.  This consumer focus will improve the success rate of translating research outputs into commercial products on domestic and international markets.  At present, while Irish research institutes are rated well in terms of delivery of scientific research the translation of this research to markets solutions is not maximising commercial returns.

At producer level Ireland has been at the forefront of developing many new agriculture production technologies and processes in particular related to grassland management and livestock breeding this innovation is enhancing the productivity and sustainability of our production.  If the sector is to achieve the growth targets for the next ten years in a sustainable manner there must be continued development of new innovative approaches to producing more while protecting and managing our natural resources. Equally important will be mechanisms for rolling out these technologies and processes to the maximum number of producers, this will be crucial to efforts to support producer profitability and viability.

At processing level there is a need for increased investment by companies in innovation and Research and Development to ensure that management teams in companies are familiar with and adopt state of the art innovation processes and practices and that production processes are continuously improved with an emphasis on Lean principles and that the Irish agri-food sector continues to develop products that the market and consumers want.  There are significant opportunities for Irish agri-food companies to bring new products to domestic and international markets. In addition to increased and better targeted investment in research, development and innovation the industry must tackle the issue of lack of capacity to absorb research in particular in SMEs. This requires greater emphasis on a commercially focused science and innovation base involving investment in people, infrastructure and training. A more collaborative approach between industry and science must be adopted both on agenda setting and delivery of outputs respecting both industry craft and academic know-how.

This strategy is proposing a number of actions to develop human capital and structures which enable SMEs to access the resources to allow them absorb the latest technologies and product development and allow them to access the global and domestic market opportunities which exist. 

Recommendations/Actions

Recommendation

Future Agri-food research to be informed by consumer insights to improve translation of research output into commercial products on market.

Actions

  • Bord Bia to explore with industry the potential for development of a Centre for Consumer Insight which should provide consumer insight to inform future investment in research and development by Irish agri-food research bodies. This may include: 

    • Investment in a physical space that is creative and inspirational, and accessible to international visitors and consumers who will be involved in the consumer research.  
    • Invest in the technology that underpins the Centre for Consumer Insight and partner with private enterprise that will support the initiative with their intellectual expertise, share their global connections and innovation experiences so that it is a state of the art, outward looking, and world class facility.
    • Increase the number of marketing specialists in areas of qualitative research, data mining and analysis, brand and innovation specialists.
    • Communicate benefits to all stakeholders to maximise engagement.

     

  • Bord Bia to continue to partner with major domestic retailers on supplier development programmes including Taste Bud and Food Academy initiatives.
  • Centre for Consumer Insight to inform market validation of future publically funded research investments.


 

Recommendation

At producer level prioritise research and innovation investment in processes and technologies which improve productivity and sustainability of production

Actions

Progress research investment areas identified in SHARP with particular emphasis on:

  • The primary production research activities of national research bodies, including Teagasc and academia, to be focussed on grass land productivity, animal breeding/genetics, soil nutrient usage, animal health improvements, crop production, economic analysis of Irish agriculture, food ingredient, product and process innovation.

  • Teagasc in collaboration with relevant HEIs and others to research emerging precision technologies, data analytics, sensor technology, DNA technology and possibilities for mining big data to improve decision making, availing of existing resources and capabilities.

 

Recommendation

Improve coordination between Industry, State Agencies and Research Institutions to support the delivery of research which will deliver commercial outputs and products.

Actions

  • Establish a high level core team to review current Agri-food sector innovation capacity, the utilisation of this capacity and to better market the Irish agri-food sector’s innovation capabilities.

  • DAFM, Enterprise Ireland and other research funders to work collaboratively to implement SHARP with oversight from National Agri-food Research and Innovation Group (NAFRI).

  • NAFRI to review coordination of agri-food research technology centres to ensure resources are applied most efficiently including exploration of how best to join up existing centres of excellence - Food Health Ireland, Nutramara, Dairy Processing Technology Centre, proposed Meat Technology Centre and the potential centre of excellence for PCF, Beverage and Horticulture sectors while maintaining consistency through EI Technology Centre programmes.

  • DAFM through the FIRM programme to further collaborate with Enterprise Ireland and other resercgh funding providers to ensure the required spectrum of agri-food research activity is funded to develop the underlining technologies and capabilities which can be leveraged to create commercial outputs and facilitate involvement in externally funded initiatives notably the EU Horizon 2020 RTD programme. 

  • Continue to promote and increase joint industry and public sector investments in research projects which will improve the commerciality of research outputs.

  • Create a virtual multi- campus centre of excellence for seafood development in Ireland, including BIM’s Seafood Development Centre, Teagasc’s Ashtown facility and third level institutes, to provide a co-ordinated, seamless product development experience for seafood entrepreneurs.

  • DAFM in conjunction with state agencies and industry partners to develop a “SMART NAUTRIENTS” research programme to support high value products from seafood.

  • DAFM, Marine Institute and Industry to develop further research programmes on the potential of marine species of fish, shellfish and seaweed as possible high value sources of  pharmaceutical, cosmetic and renewal energy products

 

Recommendation

Improve capacity of Agri-food companies to absorb Research and innovation output from Research bodies

Actions

  • Teagasc to develop proposals for a Food Innovation Hub at its Moorepark campus to promote greater collaboration between industry and public research, and deliver a step change in innovation activity in the food industry.

  • Teagasc will lead research in collaboration with other research institutions and industry to derive applications from the significant state investment in foods for health.  This will build on initiatives such as the APC, FHI, and Nutramara.

  • Teagasc and the dairy industry to complete the €10 million upgrade of Moorepark Technology Limited pilot plant.

  • Enterprise Ireland will create an FDI and Innovation Portal to improve connectivity across the Irish innovation system for Food and beverage companies.

  • Enterprise Ireland to continue to support the evolution of FHI and DPTC to allow the centre to realise long term full potential.

  • Enterprise Ireland to develop the Meat Technology Centre initiative in association with meat industry, DAFM, Teagasc and academia, with a view to launching in early 2016.

  • Enterprise Ireland will continue to engage with Industry, DAFM, research providers and other relevant stakeholders to establish a food/test incubation technology centre of excellence to support PCF, Beverage and Horticulture sectors with a focus on pilot stage production, packaging innovation, product reformulation and be a portal to global best practice research data of interest to these sectors.
  • Industry and EI should continue to drive an industry-led network of Irish Agri-food companies which access Research Bodies in a collaborative/partnership manner on specific innovation/research challenges.

  • The DAFM funded Agri-Food Graduate Development Programme to continue to upskill agri-food graduates for employment through enhancing industrial knowledge, business and personnel management, leadership, communication and advanced research and innovation skills.

  • DAFM to continue to partner with the Irish Research Council’s employment-based Research Programme to facilitate the placement of post-graduate research students in agri-food enterprises.