The creation of a regional food and drink innovation centre (The Food WorksSW) will catalyse the development of a high value food and drink manufacturing cluster at the heart of Junction 21 Enterprise Area (J21 EA). The project will act as a stimulus for innovation and change, and create a strong focal point in the development of J21 EA. It will provide food and drink businesses with the knowledge and tools required to reach their productive potential, through increased enterprise, innovation and investment. For ongoing updates please refer to www.foodworks-sw.co.uk.
Managed by The Food and Drink Forum, The Food WorksSW will sit within the newly designated Food Enterprise Zone (FEZ) within J21 EA, in close proximity to The Hive Managed Workspace. The FEZ is an integral part of the drive to support the food and drink sector in North Somerset and the wider region and will play a pivotal role in encouraging a wider cluster of food and drink related businesses at this gateway site. Together these opportunities will support sector growth, collaboration and encourage further inward investment.
The Food WorksSW will comprise of two phases that will cover a 10 acre site, Phase One, 2369 sq m (approx.) will comprise of three key elements in 2 main buildings– a business engagement hub and product development facilities plus ten food-grade business units. It is anticipated that a Phase Two will be developed that will offer grow-on space for tenants from Phase One and will attract larger more established businesses to locate to the FEZ.
The Food WorksSW will help to address the markets failure to provide food-grade units and the necessary specialist support to help the industry deal with some of the key challenges facing the food and drink sector. These challenges include such issues as; legislative changes, labelling, packaging requirements, increased demand for healthy foods and drinks, advances in innovation and technology, rising energy costs, waste minimisation, skills shortages and the drive to increase exporting levels.
The Food WorksSW responds to research undertaken within the South West region that has clearly demonstrated the lack of access to specialist technical expertise, testing and piloting facilities and food grade premises, all key factors holding business back in terms of innovation and growth. The Food WorksSW will embed a knowledge driven approach to the production, manufacturing and distribution of quality food and drink products for manufacturers across the South West and will be developed as a Centre of Excellence.
The provision of specialist sector specific business and technical support by The Food WorksSW is therefore seen as critical to the success of the Centre and the wider FEZ. This support should be accessible, via a host of differing delivery methods on and off-site, to food and drink businesses across the region and is seen as a catalyst in driving forward technical innovation and business growth, which is a key element of the business case submitted to the LEP. The Food Workssw will also need to play a pivotal role in promoting collaboration, networking and sharing of resources between food and drink businesses. This will develop connectivity within the FEZ and the wider region through the hosting of business growth seminars and workshops and establishing links with the region’s research and knowledge centres.
The one to one business and technical support provided to incubator unit tenants and to those clients using the on-site facilities will be critical in helping these growth-ready SMEs to take advantage of advances in technology and innovation, realise their aims and grow their business. The support will also help ensure key LEP outputs are met. This support is to be further supplemented by regular networking opportunities, workshops, webinars, conferences, cluster groups, access to market intelligence and referrals to key partners. The approach will provide a true ‘hub’ focus for activity in the food and drink and related high-tech and advanced engineering sectors.
The Food WorksSW Objectives
- Deliver a Food and Drink Centre of Excellence, The Food WorksSW at J21EA.
- Provide a facility that is responsive to the key challenges faced by the Food and Drink sector.
- Offer growth-ready SMEs high quality services and facilities that will enable business to grow, innovate, and invest in new technologies, support job growth and training.
- Develop a cluster of expertise in the food and drink sector within the FEZ at J21EA – to provide a clear focus of food industry expertise, with established innovation processes to support any business wishing to build their growth potential within the region.
- Maximise the economic impact of each SME supported, including new job creation.
- Attract experienced staff with the necessary food and drink sector knowledge and expertise to embed innovation and best practice in each client business.
- Provide a sector specific training and support offer, delivered in partnership with local, regional and national providers. Work with key partners to help address the mismatch between existing skills and those required by growth industries and priority sectors.
- Support the profile raising of the sector across the South West.
Description of Facilities at Food WorksSW
The Food WorksSW has received £11.3m of grant funding from the West of England LEP and is built upon North Somerset Council owned land within the designated FEZ.
The Food WorksSW will consist of two main buildings as follows:
Business Engagement Centre
o 4 Product Development rooms
o Office and Tech space
o Multi-purpose space
o Trial kitchen
o Dry, chilled and frozen storage facilities.
Food-grade business units
Intended Uses of the Buildings
The Business Engagement Centre (Building One)
The Business Engagement Centre has been designed to provide a flexible, inspiring and vibrant space to create a food focused hub as a place to exchange ideas, facilitate collaboration, and share knowledge, know-how and experience. The layout of the Engagement Centre will facilitate this building to be multi-user and multi-purpose to accommodate the needs of businesses across the food and drink sector. This building includes café, space for hot-desking facilities, networking and informal and formal meetings, conference space, a multi-purpose room, meeting spaces of varying size and four product development rooms.
The Product Development rooms
The four Product Development Rooms and related storage facilities that sit within the Business Engagement building will provide much needed facilities and technical support to guide businesses through the critical product development stage. This could include short term research and development (R&D) such as product reformulation to respond to changes in market demand, through to more significant longer term R&D that could give larger manufacturers greater leverage to exploit new technologies to bring a new product to market and create a real competitive advantage.
Together these facilities will enable flexible use by multiple food industry users with the appropriate support systems and structures under one roof. The facility will need to be suitably managed so that larger companies can undertake research and product development with a high degree of privacy and data security to ensure the necessary level of Intellectual Property is maintained and smaller companies can take advantage of on-site technical support in developing their products.
The Trial and Development kitchen will be fitted out providing facilities that should enable micro businesses to scale up production in an affordable, accessible way on a relatively regular basis until they can reach a turnover that will allow them to take on a business unit. Equally, larger businesses will be able to carry out small batch runs for consumer testing or to meet one off large orders. This will enable them to explore and trial the production of new and innovative food ingredients, new processing technologies, novel packaging, shelf-life extension, new raw materials for food & drink production and develop new processes to convert waste streams to new value-added products and new more sustainable production methods. Three further Product Development rooms provide the flexibility to focus and fit out these facilities to meet business demands and be responsive to rapid changes in technology and trends over time.
Food-grade Business units (Building Two)
The Business units will provide food and drink SMEs with modern and affordable premises that conform to the highest food standards and meet the latest environmental health legislation. These food-grade units are designed to attract food and drink businesses who can show growth potential and will allow a business to move in with the confidence that the standards of the units and availability of on-site technical and specialist support will enable their business to see immediate and tangible business benefits and growth.
It is expected that tenants of business units will benefit from being located within this supportive environment which ensures access to The Food WorksSW’ technical support and business engagement team as part of their rental package. As well as enabling the general development of a business, the focus is to encourage businesses to grow which will require them to relocate to larger premises, ideally into Phase Two of The Food WorksSW, once developed, or the wider FEZ. It is anticipated that within 3 – 5 years businesses should be sufficiently established and more self-sufficient to move on to larger premises but this will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. A degree of business churn will be necessary to discourage businesses seeing these units as a long term solution as this will prevent others benefitting from this supportive business environment.
For further information please contact The Food and Drink Forum on 0115 975 8810.