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Ireland’s Dairy Industry, Government Planning $40 Million Investment In Dairy Innovation

Investment Comes As Irish Dairy Industry Continues To Ramp Up For End Of Quotas

Ireland’s dairy processing sector continues to ramp up its preparation for the end of milk quotas on April 1 with the announcement last week of an innovation investment of 35 million euros (US$40 million).

The investment by the industry and the government is aimed at positioning Ireland as a world leader in innovation, and helping to maximize the long-term growth opportunities created by the anticipated increase of 50 percent in the Irish milk pool by 2020.

The investment is in the form of two initiatives:
•a 25 million euro Dairy Processing Technology Center (DPTC) supported by the Department of Jobs through Enterprise Ireland and the dairy industry partners, which will be hosted by University of Limerick; and
•a 10 million euro investment by Teagasc and the dairy industry shareholders in the expansion of the Moorepark Technology Ltd. (MTL) pilot plant facility in Fermoy Co. Cork.

Of the 10 major dairy companies involved, seven are investing in both initiatives: Arrabawn Co-op, Aurivo, Carbery, Dairygold, Glanbia, Kerry, and Tipperary Co-op. Lakeland Dairies is part of the DPTC consortium only. The Irish Dairy Board and North Cork Co-op are investing In MTL.
University of Limerick will lead nine other research performing organizations in the DPTC to deliver the research and technology required creating 52 new jobs for highly skilled researchers over the five-year term of the center.

“The Dairy Processing Technology Center will be a critical agent in realizing the opportunity presented by the abolition of the milk quotas by providing a dedicated public-private partnership investment in a world-class dairy processing research and capability center,” said Dan MacSweeney, chief executive of Carbery Group and chairman of the Irish Dairy Industries Association.

“The Irish dairy industry recognizes the importance of investing in sophisticated, collaborative research and innovation and this is reflected by the involvement of eight of our primary processors,” MacSweeney added.

Padraig McPhillips, the recently appointed CEO of the DPTC, explained that the DPTC is a collaborative model in which the best research talent in Ireland relevant to industry needs is brought together with industry to solve strategic research and innovation needs articulated by the sector.

“The two key outputs of the DPTC will be knowledge and people; both will be absorbed by the industry and used to deliver more efficient processes and better products and ingredients,” McPhillips said.

The two initiatives are complementary, particularly when it comes to testing the new technologies generated in the DPTC. The companies will need to trial the technologies at a pilot scale to test their potential robustness at commercial scale.

The upgraded and expanded MTL pilot plant facility provides the right environment for some of the outputs of the DPTC to be tested at a commercial scale and help the transfer of these innovations to industry.

Enterprise Ireland funded the DPTC, according to Dr. Keith O’Neill, director of lifesciences and food commercialization, Enterprise Ireland, because “with the anticipated increase of 50 percent to 2020 in the Irish milk pool, dairy processors need to be supported to deal with the challenges presented including technological capabilities and human resources capacities to develop a product mix that can increase dairy exports while maximizing the efficiencies of processing operations.

“Enterprise Ireland’s focus is on increasing exports to create economic growth and the dairy sector, having been underinvested in recent years, will use the knowledge, technologies and skills developed through the DPTC to take on competitors worldwide in the coming years,” O’Neill continued.

“The challenges faced by the dairy industry require an interdisciplinary approach if they are to be solved,” said Prof. Mary Shire, vice president research at University of Limerick. “The University of Limerick has experience of successfully leading multi-partner interdisciplinary research centers and is delighted to be hosting the DPTC.”

The 10 million euro investment by MTL’s shareholders “will future proof MTL and ensure its relevance to all its customers, national and international in the years ahead but most importantly will provide a platform to support the ambitions of the Irish dairy industry to provide value-added foods and ingredients for international markets,” said Gerry Boyle, Teagasc’s director.