Central Coast Food Innovation Initiative

The Central Coast Food Innovation Precinct is about leveraging the NSW Central Coast’s underlying existing strengths and realising economic benefit through growing and innovating the local food industry.

The overarching objective of this initiative is to grow jobs, build regional business competitiveness and encourage national and international trade through innovation, education and research and by utilising a best practice innovation model developed by Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER).

In January 2018, a formal partnership between RDA Central Coast, the University of Newcastle, Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) and Central Coast Industry Connect was established to build the Central Coast’s reputation as an internationally renowned centre of excellence in food innovation. Its intended that the NSW Department of Primary Industries will also be a future partner in the delivery of the Precinct.

Government funding is now being sought to establish a Food Innovation Centre as a critical enabler to deliver the strategic deliverables identified in the Central Coast Food Innovation Region Initiative. Funding will be utilised for:

  • Business case and delivery strategy development
  • Land acquisition costs if located off the Ourimbah Campus
  • To build required collaboration coworking spaces
  • To build or upgrade labs and sensory testing facilities
  • To develop industrial scale workshops and large-scale demonstration plants
  • The creation of student accommodation to house national and international students
  • Increased parking required by the precinct if based at Ourimbah Campus
  • Improved connections with Ourimbah Station and Pacific highway if based at Ourimbah Campus
  • Recruit Senior Professors and academic staff
  • Recruit Innovation Centre Staff
  • Implement a 3 Year initial operational plan to deliver the required objectives of the precinct



The Central Coast Regional Growth Plan 2036 guides the NSW Government’s land use planning priorities over the next 20 years. The plan estimates that the population will increase by 75,500 individuals and 24,674 new jobs will be created by 2036.

With the continual squeeze on industrial land in Western Sydney there is the opportunity to develop a world class Food Innovation Precinct on the Central Coast between the airport and freight port hubs of Sydney and Newcastle, that would take advantage of the current upgrades of the M1 and the delivery of North Connex. 

With available industrial lands adjacent to the M1, this would allow the Central Coast to differentiate their business attraction offerings by promoting the region to Food and Food related businesses as an enviable location to establish or expand their business to one of the most logistically efficient transport regions in Australia.

Developing a Central Coast Food Innovation Precinct will also embed businesses in a specialized food and related industries research and technology precinct, designed to advance industrial innovation by connecting experts on common ground to facilitate the exchange of ideas, solutions and discovery. The project will also allow the region to substantially grow the number of overseas visitors living and studying on the NSW Central Coast and for the University to proactively attract industry investment to fund research that could be utilized to innovate national and international food and food related industries. 

RDA Central Coast and Central Coast industry Connect have successfully coordinated a number of catalyst projects to inform the development of the Central Coast Food Innovation Region Six Strategic Initiatives, which have included:

  • Mapping food related activity across key regional stakeholders
  • Undertaking stakeholder and industry consultation
  • Developing catalyst projects that would attract State and Federal Funding
  • Delivering a pilot program to take the first step in establishing a local value chain with local end consumers
  • Commissioning an independent report from RMIT University to review the Food Innovation initiative’s broad intentions, major projects and potential regional benefits
  • Marketing the Central Coast as a food destination initiative has commenced with the production of a video highlighting regional food suppliers and end users
  • Central Coast was formally announced as a partner in the 2017 $50m Food Agility CRC Initiative
  • Central Coast Industry Connect signatory to the food waste & food security CRC to be announced in June 2018
  • The food innovation centre has been short listed as one of the priority infrastructure projects for the region by the NSW Government
  • A group of industry representatives developed the Central Coast Food Collective to seek opportunities for “paddock to Plate” opportunities
  • A review of national & international “Best Practice” food innovation centres & regions was completed
  • Discussions and site visits with CSIRO, Monash University, RMIT University and FIAL were undertaken
  • Stem & P-TEC Initiatives were launched with Wyong High School
  • Landmark MOU signed in January 2018 between RDA Central Coast, Central Coast Industry Connect, University of Newcastle and Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER)
  • Government, Industry and Media launch of Initiative in April 2018 and officially opened by The Hon. Taylor Martin, MLC and Adam Crouch MP – Member for Terrigal
  • Industry forum named “Food Futures” attended by over 200 industry and Community Leaders
  • Follow the success of the Forum two industry focus groups have been run to ascertain the needs of industry and how UON can facilitate these needs.
  • Central Coast Industry Connect was selected for the Food innovation Australia Ltd Cluster funding, receiving $393,000 matched funding grant, to establish a Food & Beverage cluster on the Central Coast. CCIC is the only NSW organisation to be awarded this. The cluster will bring together researchers, industry, educators and various state and federal government bodies to deliver best practice engagement models, SME education programs and a smart specialisation involving health and food. This will provide support to the Central Coast Food Innovation initiative and the basis for clients for the Food Innovation Centre.
  • Work is now being undertaken by the cluster is to establish a mentoring program where large organisations can mentor SME’s in product development and establishing new markets including export.
  • Tourism Central Coast’s ‘Have a Little Adventure’ campaign launched – designed to position the Central Coast as a premier food and beverage destination.
  • Launch on the NSW Government’s Food & Beverage Manufacturing Strategy at RDA Central Coast

Following the delivery of these successful catalyst projects, RDA Central Coast and Central Coast Industry Connect in collaboration with the Department of Premier and Cabinet and Department of Industry developed the following six strategic regional initiatives that would form the foundation of the strategic intent of Central Coast Regional Food Innovation Precinct.

The Development of a Food Innovation Centre to Deliver:

  • Concentrations of expertise in specific fields across food industry disciplines, working towards making discoveries, strengthening capability and delivering holistic solutions
  • A partner network supporting research objectives and broader strategic initiatives for the benefit of many
  • Extensive research facilities including laboratories, consumer sensory testing services, industrial scale workshops and large-scale demonstration plants enabling industry-ready applications
  • Strategically positioned nodes for targeted research contributing to sustainability, regional development and economic diversification
  • The bringing of post graduate students and researchers together in a Doctoral Training centre with industry, business and government partners to inspire new ideas, new ways of working and smarter solutions to industry challenges
  • The facilitation of regional strategies and initiatives aimed at economic diversification and the creation of new industries and innovations
  • The development of advanced strategies and initiatives aimed at solving universal challenges through international collaboration
  • A cohort of industry-ready graduates through access to specialised research facilities and industry-focused collaborative research partnerships
  • Innovation platforms giving SME’s the resources, knowledge, networks and infrastructure to transform ideas into enterprise
  • The mobilization of knowledge by the delivery of short courses targeted to industry needs to ensure participants are at the cutting edge of their field
  • The availability and marketing of overseas student places wanting to study the rapidly growing food science and related disciplines
  • A central hub of related food activity on the NSW Central Coast

The Launch of Business Development and Attraction Projects To:

  • Differentiate the offerings of the NSW Central Coast when encouraging business to establish or relocate businesses to the region
  • Proactively market the Central Coast as a business location to National and International organisations
  • Develop supply chain partnerships and paddock to plate opportunities
  • Encourage start-ups and food entrepreneurs within the region by utilisation and services offered by the Central Coast Food Innovation Centre
  • Build food orientated transport, manufacturing and logistics hubs to leverage upgrades of the M1 and North Connex road upgrades which will allow easy road distribution to all major cities in Australia
  • Assist local food businesses to become export ready
  • Create new food related tourism and hospitality ventures

Enhance Research and Development Capability To:

  • Coordinate R&D efforts with business, government and educational institutions
  • Align capability and need
  • Develop international engagement
  • Encourage open dissemination of R&D
  • Enhance competitiveness and grow the regional economy

Focus on Skills and Education To:

  • Creation of the jobs of tomorrow
  • Develop education and training product and services to attract national and international students
  • Ensure local delivery of identified regional skills requirements and a training curriculum that is aligned to business and food industry needs
  • Reduce barriers of entry into the food industry
  • Development and retention of local talent
  • Identifying and growing STEM capabilities and awareness

The Creation of a Food Destination To:

  • Create industry growth and local jobs
  • Promote local provenance, regional branding, identity and authenticity
  • Develop regional food trails and events
  • Encourage & support local food entrepreneurship
  • Grow food tourism and hospitality in national and international markets
  • Create a premium food destination that focuses on fresh local produce
  • Proactively promote businesses that use and support locally grown & manufactured products

Focus on Nutrition & Welfare To:

  • To develop global food and nutrition solutions in conjunction with the state-of-the-art Central Coast Medical School and Research Institute within the new Health & Wellbeing Precinct at Gosford Hospital
  • Promote the consumption of high-quality nutritious food to reduce the incidence of obesity and other diet related health conditions on the NSW Central Coast
  • Reduce food wastage throughout the supply chain by providing imperfect food that would normally be discarded to organisations and foodbanks for distribution to members of the community experiencing financial hardship

The Central Coast Food Innovation Centre, in addition to its core academic and research functions, will serve as the central hub for strategy deployment, collaboration and project deployment that will be essential in delivering the strategic outcomes required of Central Coast Regional Food Innovation Precinct.


The Food Innovation Precinct is aligned with the following Government strategies and initiatives:

  • Australian government National Innovation and Science Agenda
  • NSW Government Premiers Priorities
  • NSW Government Central Coast Regional Plan 2036
  • NSW Government Invest Regional NSW Central Coast Prospectus
  • NSW Government Central Coast and Lake Macquarie Regional Economic Development Strategy 2018 – 2022
  • Smart and Skilled reform of the NSW Vocational Education and Training (VET) system
  • Central Coast Regional Economic Development and Employment Strategy
  • Tourism Central Coast’s ‘Have a Little Adventure’ campaign – designed to position the Central Coast as a premier food and beverage destination.
  • Former Wyong Council Ourimbah Land Use Strategy and Town Centre Masterplan
  • NSW Government Food & Beverage Manufacturing Strategy


In December 2017, RDA Central Coast, The University of Newcastle and The Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) agreed to formally develop a partnership MOU to deliver a Central Coast Food Innovation Centre and to develop a world class food science faculty on the Central Coast.

The MOU was signed in January 2018 which allow the partnership to realise strong regional economic and social development through a number of strategic activities to begin in April 2018.

The partnership with the University of Newcastle and NIER will directly assist the Central Coast to leverage expertise from the recently implemented Global Impact Cluster for Energy, Resources, Food and Water which is aimed at accelerating innovation in the food and agriculture sectors through focused industry engagement, transdisciplinary research collaboration and commercial output.

To reduce the risks associated with the initiative, it was decided by the partnership to work towards the delivery of an innovation precinct model that had already been developed and deployed by Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER).  The NSW Energy & Resources Knowledge Hub and Innovation Launchpad established in Newcastle is widely acknowledged as a best practice innovation initiative, that has delivered outstanding outcomes for the hunter and NSW economy.

The initiative partners believe that by utilizing and customizing the governance and delivery framework developed for the knowledge hub and launchpad will accelerate the delivery of the Central Coast Food Innovation Precinct and ensure the required outcomes for the region and the NSW Government.

A delivery strategy is now jointly being developed by the partners, in consultation with all relevant regional stakeholders, including industry, the wider education sector and all levels of government.

Next steps to deliver the initiative will include:

  • Commitment of required capital and operational funding
  • Securing additional Government and industry partners including the Department of Primary industries
  • Initial planning and concept estimates are now being prepared by the University of Newcastle for the potential development of the precinct on the Ourimbah campus
  • University of Newcastle is examining opportunities for co-investment
  • Full business case development to commence
  • Detailed planning required for the operational requirements of the precinct
  • Consultation required with Council in regards to any proposed development / redevelopment


It is envisioned that the Central Coast Food Innovation Precinct will operate under a similar governance structure already successfully administered by the existing framework of the NIER/Global Impact Cluster (Energy, Resources, Food and Water) Advisory Board and The NSW Energy and Resources Knowledge Hub Steering Committee. The inclusion of the Participants Committee will support productivity by enabling a process for those involved in the program to raise and rectify issues easily.

Advisory Board

  • Heads of RDA Central Coast, Central Coast Industry Connect, University of Newcastle Ourimbah Campus, NIER, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and representatives of key industry areas associated with the core agenda of food and related industries innovation and growth
    • Provide strategic direction and leadership for the Innovation Precinct and Centre, including assistance to attract strategic funding, construction, project management, contract management and employment
    • Advise and counsel on strategy and planning in context of current and projected policy and industry trends, needs and issues
    • Provide access to national and global networks to support an industry engagement strategy
    • Facilitate partnerships with industry.

Steering Committee

  • Existing RDA Central Coast, Central Coast Industry Connect, University of Newcastle Ourimbah Campus, NIER Partnership Steering Committee, representatives from NSW Government including DPI, and industry
    • Represent key stakeholders in the effective management of the Innovation Launchpad
    • Advise on associated infrastructure activities including space management, utilisation and expansion projects
    • Manage operational issues
    • Align activities with objectives of the Central Coast Food Innovation Precinct, Food Innovation Centre, NSW Government and industry

 Participants Committee

  • Made up of business representatives operating out of the Food Innovation Precinct
    • A formal avenue for communication
    • Identify opportunities and issues
    • Provide leadership for knowledge sharing activities
    • Provide recommendations around research collaboration and synergy


  1. Decision on site location
  2. Clarification of land and infrastructure required e.g.; Repurposing of existing infrastructure and additional buildings on existing university land or a new innovation centre at Somersby, Tuggerah or Warnervale
  3. Economic Assessment including CBA is required prior to application for funding
  4. Allocation of required funding
  5. Governance structure implemented
  6. Clarification of any rezoning required
  7. DA process
  8. Construction of the infrastructure
  9. Key academic staff appointed
  10. Innovation Centre staff appointed
  11. Development and initial rollout of precinct strategy and projects


Due to the established partnership between RDA Central Coast, Central Coast Industry Connect, University of Newcastle & NIER many of the identified constraints in ensuring the deployment of the Central Coast Food Innovation Precinct have been previously identified and addressed.

Utilising best practice governance and delivery frameworks already established by the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), the partnership believes that once committed capital and initial operational funding to commence the initiative is secured, the individual projects required to deliver the Central Coast Food Innovation Precinct will be delivered with the support of all regional government stakeholders, educational providers, industry and community leaders.

Any additional constraints identified during the implantation process would be managed through the agreed governance processes established in conjunction with government, industry and community stakeholders.