Central Coast Food Innovation Initiative
The Central Coast Food Innovation Region initiative is a critical economic development initiative developed and led by RDA Central Coast. The initiative was developed to leverage the NSW Central Coast’s underlying existing strengths and realizing economic benefit through growing and innovating the local food, beverage and agricultural industry.
The overarching objective of this initiative is to grow jobs, build regional business competitiveness, develop export opportunities and encourage national and international trade through innovation, education and research and by utilizing a best practice innovation model developed by Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER).
In 2018, a formal partnership between RDA Central Coast, the University of Newcastle (including NIER) and Central Coast Industry Connect was established to build the Central Coast’s reputation as an internationally renowned center of excellence in food innovation.
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 infrastructure upgrades of the M1 and the impending 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 studying on the NSW Central Coast and for the University to proactively target industry investment to fund research that could be utilized to innovate local, national and international food and food related industries.
RDA Central Coast is leading a number of catalyst projects to inform the development of the Central Coast Food Innovation Region Six Strategic Initiatives, which have included:
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
Over the past 12 months RDA Central Coast has led the development the following six strategic regional initiatives that are intended to 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 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 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
Development of the Central Coast as a Food Destination To:
- Create industry growth and local jobs
- Attract direct Australian and foreign investment
- Promote local provenance, regional branding, identity and authenticity
- Develop regional food trails and events
- Encourage and 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
Developing a Regional Strategic Focus on Health & Wellness 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
- To develop innovative functional, health and wellness food related products, services and expertise for emerging national and international markets.
Outcomes achieved in the 2018 – 2019 period include;
- A formal MOU has been established between RDA Central Coast, the University of Newcastle, Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) and Central Coast Industry Connect to build the Central Coast’s reputation as an internationally renowned centre of excellence in food
- RDA Central Coast was asked to launch the NSW Government’s Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry Development Strategy at its boardroom in Ourimbah. The Strategy aims to encourage the statewide development of the food and beverage manufacturing industry – NSW’s largest agribusiness sector, consisting of 3600 businesses and employing close to 70,000 people. During the launch RDA was requested to speak on the Central Coast Food Innovation Initiative that was highlighted in the strategy, in regards to the potential comparative advantage for the NSW Central Coast by leveraging our region’s existing strengths and realising economic benefit through growing and innovating our local food industry. Subsequently, RDA Central Coast was asked to organise and host the Food and Advanced Agriculture Regional delegation for the NSW – Guangdong Governments Joint Economic Meeting.
- Following the MOU partnership’s successful application for funding through Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) Cluster fund, a food industry cluster has been established to support SME’s in the food and agriculture sectors. The clusters main focus is on developing SME’s in their go to market processes, looking at ideation, product development, consumer testing and commercialisation. It also considers opportunities in collaboration between SME’s and our larger food process organisations to develop and launch unique product offerings.
To date, the cluster has achieved the following:
- Establishment of an industry strong steering committee covering large corporates, Medium sized businesses and SME’s, research organisations and all levels of government.
- The steering committee has established its value
- The steering committee has developed and agreed branding and marketing plans under the “Central Coast Food Alliance”
- It has initiated projects in wastewater and energy supporting the need for the local food industry to manage its operational
The MOU partnership and the industry cluster have also successfully partnered to launch the national MARS Seeds of Change Accelerator program (a program that supports start- ups and scale ups through financial support, mentoring and providing expert advice). A local Central Coast company was one of six subsequent national applicants that successfully won a place in the program.
MOU partner Central Coast Industry Connect has also become a signatory in the recently established Fight Food Waste CRC and this partnership opportunity will be embraced within the food cluster activities.
MOU partner, the University of Newcastle (including NIER) is now developing a Centre in Food Science in partnership with RDA Central Coast that will bring together these capabilities as part of the Global Impact Cluster for Energy Resources Food and Water (GIC ERFW) at the Central Coast’s Ourimbah Campus.
- The Centre for Food Science is actively engaged with the Central Coast food industry and business associations on the Central Coast including; Master Foods, Agrana, Sanitarium, Eastcoast Beverages, Sara Lee and many others. Food and beverage manufacturing being the largest sub-sector of manufacturing on the Central Coast, and is valued at $275 million to the local economy, with food and beverage companies employing 2614 people locally this means that our researchers are based at the heart of NSW’s largest food and manufacturing region (Central Coast, Hunter and Western Sydney).
The Centre will coalesce active research scientists involved in food, human nutrition and agriculture/horticulture from the University of Newcastle, with experts from the food industry, members of local government, and international collaborators. There is opportunity to build greater multidisciplinary linkages to strategic initiatives under the GIC ERFW in the Pacific region and Upper Hunter.
It is intended that this proposed Centre will strengthen the natural synergy between local government, the food industry, UON researchers and international partners on research and research translation and training to meet regional, national and global trends in food.
Its members have diverse skills, backgrounds and expertise in the food and related sectors, such as food chemistry, food microbiology, food processing and preservation, and human nutrition. The Centre will have capability to provide consultation to the food industry, conduct research to solve problems for the food industry, to provide service on testing food quality, to develop new food products, and to initiate/develop innovative techniques for food processing and preservation.
Current key research areas include:
- Biochemistry/ Biology
- Molecular nutrition
- Food chemistry/ functional food
- Post-harvest technology
- Food processing
- Food related health benefits
- Food and consumer behaviour
- Nutrition education
- Marine science
- Plant science
During the past year, RDA Central Coast’s partnership with the University of Newcastle to deliver the Central Coast Food Innovation Region lnitiative has achieved the following:
- Vice Chancellor support of the food innovation initiative and delivery of the University’s food and agribusiness sector
- The appointment of two ongoing Senior Lecturers at Ourimbah Campus. Dr Tamara Bucher is a Human Nutrition and Consumer Psychology expert. Dr Emma Beckett has a multi-faceted research background, with qualifications and experience in nutrition, epidemiology, science management, biomedical sciences, immunology and
- The commitment from the Faculty of Science to prioritise the refurbishment of two teaching laboratories over Christmas – an investment of $1M
- Active participation on the CCIC Cluster Central Coast Food Alliance Steering Committee
- The delivery of a targeted Energy Efficiency Industry Workshop in collaboration with FIAL and CCIC through the NSW Energy and Resources Knowledge Hub
- Research collaboration with local companies in wastewater treatment, propagation technologies and post
- It has been estimated that the University’s direct investment in support of the Central Coast Food Innovation Region Initiative to be in excess of $1.5M (in cash and in kind) during the past period.