Sunday, April 21, 2024

Food super-campus in Manawatu

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A proposed $250 million Palmerston North-based “food super-campus” is at the heart of the FoodHQ initiative launched this week.
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FoodHQ is a collaboration between research-focused organisations Massey University, AgResearch, the Riddet Centre, and Plant & Food Research, plus business incubator the BioCommerce Centre, and Fonterra.

It builds on the Food Innovation New Zealand project launched in 2009.

Investment in the super-campus is based on a 20-year completion timeframe. The organisations involved in FoodHQ are within a kilometre of each other but are bisected by a busy highway and have few communal areas.

The driving force behind the super-campus concept is to improve the cross-pollination of ideas, while removing duplication through better collaboration and greater interaction.

“It’s about creating an environment where innovation and entrepreneurial activity can occur, where people can interact, where staff can exchange, can work together, creating an environment that’s a fantastic place to work and learn to attract staff and students.”

Stuart Morris

Massey University

“It’s not just about the facilities themselves, it’s the interplay and interspace amongst the facilities,” Massey University assistant vice-chancellor Stuart Morris said.

“It’s about creating an environment where innovation and entrepreneurial activity can occur, where people can interact, where staff can exchange, can work together, creating an environment that’s a fantastic place to work and learn to attract staff and students.”

The super-campus is a key platform to support another focus of FoodHQ – attracting and retaining good people.

Currently, 2000 staff are based at the Palmerston North sites across the six partner organisations. The aim is to double that to create an organisation with world-class influence.

“At the end of the day, to attract people to NZ you have got to attract them somewhere – they have got to come to a place. We see this as the place to come for food innovation and we want to attract top talent,” FoodHQ project manager Mark Ward said.

The idea is to attract not only staff but also commercial partners and investment, from domestic and international firms.

FoodHQ will operate as a gateway to the accumulated areas of expertise.

A board made up of the leaders of each partner organisation and the mayors of Palmerston North City and Manawatu District will determine the direction of FoodHQ.

Operational teams drawing on expertise from within each of the partnership organisations are in place for each of the four work streams – people, science and research, science infrastructure, and commercial infrastructure.

“One of the real strengths of the FoodHQ partnership is they have worked out governance and management without needing to create a new structure or new company.

“I think that is really healthy for NZ because we often all go off and do our own thing,” Ward said.

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