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Minister Coveney Announces €7 million in Funding to UCD and Teagasc to Deliver New Entrepreneurship Programme to Create More Food and Agriculture Start-Ups and Jobs

Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has today announced €7 million in funding, over the next 6 years, to University College Dublin (UCD) to deliver a new food and agriculture innovation and entrepreneurship training programme, in partnership with Teagasc.

The focus of the Food and Agriculture Sustainable Technology Innovation Programme (FAST-IP) is to increase innovation knowledge within the food and agriculture sector leading to the creation of more high-potential start-ups (HPSUs) and jobs in this sector of the economy.

Group of people standing in a semi-circle and holding a sign

Pictured (l-r) are; Gary Ryan, AgTechUCD; Dr Siobhán Jordan, Teagasc; Minister Simon Coveney TD, Marina Donohoe, Enterprise Ireland and Prof. Nick Holden, UCD.

The programme forms part of Enterprise Ireland’s Innovators’ Initiative which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

FAST-IP will be delivered by the UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering, in partnership with Teagasc, at the newly opened AgTechUCD Innovation Centre at UCD Lyons Farm in Co. Kildare.

Minister Simon Coveney TD said, “I am delighted to launch UCD and Teagasc’s Food and Agriculture Sustainable Technology Innovation Programme (FAST-IP) under the Enterprise Ireland Innovators’ Initiative. Ireland’s Sustainable Food and AgTech industry is already a success and nationally important, contributing an estimated €8 billion to the economy and employing over 160,000 people.

This programme will further enhance innovation in the sector by providing participants with the necessary skills to evaluate, select and validate ideas for new products and services. Over the lifespan of the programme, FAST-IP is expected to contribute to the creation of new Sustainable Food and AgTech SMEs and High Potential Start-Ups, with the potential to create hundreds of new jobs in the process.”

Pictured (l-r) are; Gary Ryan, Director, AgTechUCD; Professor Nick Holden, UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering and Academic Director, FAST-IP; Dr Siobhán Jordan, Head of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, Teagasc and Marina Donohoe, Head of Research and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland. 

FAST-IP will have 5 intakes of 15 participants, beginning in September 2024 and running until the end of 2029. The 12-month in-person programme, aimed at mid-career professionals, is accredited by UCD at Level 9 on the National Qualifications Framework. Participants who complete the programme will be awarded a Graduate Diploma in Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurial training programme will use design-thinking methodologies and will have a practical focus. Through the programme participants will learn how to conduct needs-led innovation to develop market-validated solutions to unmet needs in the areas of agricultural technology and food sustainability sectors.

The programme’s focus will be on the immersive experience and participants will spend 8-10 weeks immersed in agricultural environments including farms and food processing companies throughout the year-long programme.

Marina Donohoe, Head of Research and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland, said, “The agri-food sector is an integral part of the Irish economy and society, both nationally and regionally, in particular for rural communities. Through the Innovators’ Initiative funding announced today FAST-IP will further build resilience and strengthen innovation within the agri-food sector through training and entrepreneurship leading to the creation of more start-ups with global potential and jobs across the country.”

UCD and Teagasc, with strong reputations for academic and research excellence in the areas of Sustainable Food Systems, Agriculture, and Food Science, will utilise their extensive networks, connections, domain expertise, entrepreneurial experience, and track-record for supporting, fostering and spinning out start-ups over the next 6 years.

Gary Ryan, Director, AgTechUCD Innovation Centre, said, “The key objective of FAST-IP is the creation of a pipeline of commercialisation fund applications and an increase in the number of HPSUs in the sustainable food systems and AgTech sectors. The exciting and dynamic programme will deliver a unique perspective to the participants in each cohort that will position them to carry out real-world needs identification and follow that through with innovative, realistic, and commercial solutions.”

He added, “Placing high calibre, passionate, mid-career professionals in agricultural immersive environments will facilitate the development of high quality, commercially viable business ideas. These ideas will have the potential to develop into solutions that will make the industry more sustainable and profitable. From the outset programme participants will be encouraged to focus on innovations that have a positive impact on climate change and the environment. Sustainability around innovative solutions will be to the fore in FAST-IP as it has to be in everything facing the wider ag sector.”

Dr Siobhán Jordan, Head of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, Teagasc, said, “Ireland's national Agri-Food strategy, Food Vision 2030, has a goal for Ireland to become a world leader in sustainable food systems over the next decade by balancing climate, smart agriculture, environmental and economic sustainability, health, and innovation.

Teagasc will play a key role in the programme enabling the participants to evaluate, select and validate compelling ideas for new products, processes and services to address the range of current challenges faced by the global Agri-Food sector. Through the programme participants will have access to state of the art agri-food immersive environments including Signpost Programme farms and food processing facilities along with connections to extensive advisory and mentoring networks covering all areas from farm to fork.” 

Professor Nick Holden, Professor of Biosystems Engineering in the UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering is the Academic Director of the Graduate Diploma Programme. Professor Holden is also a co-founder of Proveye, a UCD spin-out company, which is pioneering the use of digital imagery for more predictable and profitable decision-making for agriculture and the environment.

FAST-IPprovides participants with a tax-free €38,000 stipend over the 12-month duration of the programme. The first FAST-IP programme will begin at the AgTechUCD Innovation Centre in September 2024.

The AgTechUCD Innovation Centre, which is part of NovaUCD, is focused on promoting and accelerating early-stage start-ups and SMEs with disruptive innovations in the agri, agtech, agrifood, equine and veterinary sectors, as they build their innovative businesses into leading enterprises creating jobs.

FAST-IP, supported under the Innovators’ Initiative Programme, is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union through the Southern, Eastern and Midland Regional Programme 2021-2027.

We welcome expressions of interest from potential applicants for FAST-IP and further information is available viahttps://www.ucd.ie/innovation/fast-ip/.


7 March 2024

For further informationcontact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, UCD Research and Innovation, e:(opens in a new window)miceal.whelan@ucd.ieand Eric Donald, Head of PR, Teagasc, e:(opens in a new window)eric.donald@teagasc.ie.

Editors Notes

For further information aboutInnovators’ Initiativevisit (opens in a new window)https://globalambition.ie/innovators-initiative/

FAST-IPparticipants will be trained how toDiscoverunmet needs, how toDevelopan idea to an unmet need and bring an idea to a go/no go point quickly and efficiently, and lastly how toDelivera solution or idea to market, making it into a viable product, service, or business.https://www.ucd.ie/innovation/fast-ip/

Contact UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering

Room 303. Agriculture & Food Science Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 7484 | Location Map(opens in a new window)