Ground has been broken and main construction will now start on the University of Lincoln's bespoke agri-food research and development facility at the new Food Enterprise Zone (FEZ) in Holbeach, Lincolnshire - in the heart of the UK's £100bn food and drink sector.
The milestone represents the next phase of construction following the ground works which began in summer last year, with completion of the building due early next year (2021).
The University of Lincoln hosted a celebratory ground breaking event to mark the occasion. It was attended by Professor Val Braybrooks MBE, Dean of Holbeach and the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM), Simon Wright, Lincolnshire County Council, Councillor Charles Nicholas Worth, South Holland District Council, and representatives from Willmott Dixon Construction – the main contractor for the build.
The Centre of Excellence in Agri-food Technology will be the linchpin of the FEZ, delivering innovation support services, pioneering research, skills provision and knowledge exchange for agri-food businesses across Lincolnshire and beyond.
As the first building on the site, the Centre of Excellence will build on the success of the University of Lincoln's Holbeach campus, home to the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM). It will include microbiology and chemistry laboratories, a high-tech test kitchen and sensory suite, break space, and seminar rooms, and will act as an innovation hub – promoting the rapid uptake of advanced technologies such as robotics and automation and ensuring the UK's agri-food industry remains competitive.
Professor Braybrooks said: "We are delighted to celebrate this milestone and look ahead to the many benefits the new Centre of Excellence will bring to businesses across Lincolnshire and beyond. The agri-food sector and its supply chains are of enormous importance to the county economically, and evolving global food markets are creating unprecedented opportunities for both established and early stage businesses as suppliers of innovative new products and technologies. This new facility is designed to house a community of leading industrial scientists and their support teams, working to meet the innovation, research and knowledge transfer needs of Greater Lincolnshire's agri-food businesses."
The FEZ will be located next to the A17 and A151 and is designed to support agri-food businesses, with a particular focus on the food technology sector. When complete, phase one of the multi-million pound development will create around 16,000sq m of new business space, capable of supporting over 400 jobs.
Pat Doody, Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "The Holbeach Food Enterprise Zone serves a sector which is the world's largest production industry, and this sector is currently enjoying very strong growth.
"South Holland is the food chain capital of the UK, with 38% of its GVA derived from the food industry, and this is why we are very pleased to be supporting this game-changing, university-led building development on the emerging FEZ site with a grant allocation of £2.4m from the Government's Growth Deal."
Stuart Kerr, Operations Director at Willmott Dixon, said: "This is a pivotal scheme for Lincolnshire, and we are excited to have reached this significant milestone in its delivery. The region is at the cutting-edge of the agri-food sector and research and development is going to continue shaping this work, especially thanks to the Centre of Excellence.
"We are extremely passionate about Lincolnshire, and the opportunities it presents for growth and investment. Lincolnshire is an excellent place to do business and we have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline as well as recently winning a RICS award for the Lincoln Transport Hub."
The Holbeach FEZ is funded by the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, Lincolnshire County Council and the Midlands Engine, with South Holland District Council and the University of Lincoln partners in the scheme.
Further details on the FEZ are available online.
Source: University of Lincoln