Funding of €7m, over the next six years, has been allocated to University College Dublin (UCD) for the delivery of a new food and agriculture innovation and entrepreneurship training programme, in partnership with Teagasc, Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney has announced.

The aim of the Food and Agriculture Sustainable Technology Innovation Programme (FAST-IP) is to increase innovation knowledge within the sector. It is hoped it will lead to the creation of more high potential start-ups and jobs in this sector of the economy.

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

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

Enhance innovation

Speaking at the launch, Minister Coveney said that it 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”.

The programme is aimed at mid-career professionals and will begin in September of this year, running until the end of 2029. With five intakes of 15 participants, the 12-month in-person programme is accredited by UCD at Level 9 on the National Qualifications Framework. On completion, participants will be awarded a Graduate Diploma in Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurial training programme will have a practical focus and will use design-thinking methodologies. Students 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.

They will spend eight to 10 weeks immersed in agricultural environments including farms and food processing companies, and encouraged to focus on innovations that have a positive impact on climate change and the environment.


Marina Donohoe of Enterprise Ireland said that the funding will “further build resilience and strengthen innovation” within the agri-food sector, leading to the “creation of more start-ups with global potential and jobs across the country”.

The key objective is to “create a pipeline of commercialisation fund applications”, AgTechUCD Innovation Centre’s Gary Ryan said and to increase in the number of start-ups in the sustainable food systems and AgTech sectors.

He added that “placing high calibre, passionate, mid-career professionals in agricultural immersive environments will facilitate the development of high quality, commercially viable business ideas”, leading to a more sustainable and profitable industry.

The academic director of the programme is Professor Nick Holden, Professor of Biosystems Engineering in the UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering.

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.