Irish processor recognises R&D need

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Research and development European union Ciaa

Following concerns that food and drink R&D investment across
Europe has hit a low ebb, Irish meat manufacturer Dawn Farm Foods
has pledged to spend 28m on research.

Dawn Farm Foods, part of Ireland's largest agri-business Queally Group, announced Tuesday it will invest in the development of a meat science innovation centre at its Naas manufacturing plant near Dublin.

The move has been supported by government initiative Enterprise Ireland, and will see the creation of 100 jobs, including the doubling of dedicated innovation staff from 15 to 30 within the next five years.

Dawn Farm, established in 1986, has grown to become a leading producer of value-added cooked meat ingredients for sale in the European food manufacturing and food service sectors.

With the new R&D spend it hopes to deepen penetration into EU markets, trading on the strength of its technical expertise and reputation for providing high product safety.

In supporting the investment programme, Ireland's Trade and Employment Minister Michael Martin said: "Irish industry is acutely aware of the importance of research and development in developing new high-value added products and building competitiveness."

Enterprise Ireland has set ambitious targets to substantially increase the number of companies investing in R&D.

The organisaiton hopes the programme will improve the competitiveness of Irish manufacturers abroad.

R&D funding deficit endemic across the bloc​ A CIAA report last year revealed that low spending on the development of new products and processing techniques, coupled with sluggish export growth, has made the industry vulnerable to increased global competition.

Overall profitability has not been maintained at a sufficient level throughout the food and drink sector to keep and expand investment, notably in research and development,"​ the organisation stated.

"To maintain its position and improve its share on world markets the industry requires greater use of technical know-how and a considerable strengthening of its capacity for innovation."

The EU food and drink industry is the largest manufacturing sector in Europe, with an annual production valued at 815bn. The sector employs four million workers.

However the sector is characterised by a high fragmentation of its structure, with a few large companies with a big piece of the pie, and many small businesses operating in niches.

Reform needs to be the guiding principle for national as well as European economic policy, the CIAA explained. "It is vital that member state and EU measures complement each other to create a powerful growth and jobs engine."

Even though the amount spent on R&D in the EU rose by 20 per cent between 1997 and 2001, it accounted only for 0.24 per cent of output in 2001, far beyond the average of 0.35 per cent of its main competitors.

Food companies in Australia, Japan, Norway and the US all spend relatively more on R&D than the EU. Japan sits on top of the pile with an R&D intensity reaching almost 0.8 per cent.

In a key policy document last year the CIAA called on members to boost R&D spending as a means of remaining innovative and competitive. The association blamed the poor rate of technology transfer from the research phase to the application stage as a major barrier to innovation in the industry.

"It has long been recognized that whilst the quality and quantity of Europe's research community match those of North America and the Pacific Rim, the wider impact of this research is lower than that of these trading competitors because of the less effective transfer of this knowledge to industry,"​ the CIAA stated in a policy document.

CIAA membership is made up of 24 national federations, including two observers, 32 European sector associations and 21 major food and drink companies.

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