Work has started on the first building at the new Holbeach Food Enterprise Zone.

Groundworks have started for the University of Lincoln’s new agri-food research and development facility which will be the linchpin of the Food Enterprise Zone in Holbeach.

Work started on Wednesday (31st July) on the Centre of Excellence in Agri-food Technology which will deliver innovation support services, pioneering research, skills provision and knowledge exchange for agri-food businesses across Lincolnshire and beyond.

The Greater Lincolnshire LEP has contributed £2.4 million towards the project via the Government's Growth Deal.

Lincolnshire County Council is constructing a new access road for the site, as well as installing utilities for the plots that will be sold or let to agri-food businesses.

The FEZ will be located next to the A17 and A151 and is designed to support agri-food businesses, with a particular focus on the food technology sector. When complete, phase one of the multi-million pound development will create around 16,000sq m of new business space, capable of supporting over 400 jobs.

As the first building on the site, the Centre of Excellence will build on the success of the University of Lincoln’s Holbeach campus, home to the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM). It will be an innovation hub promoting the rapid uptake of advanced technologies such as robotics and automation and ensuring the UK’s agri-food industry remains competitive, able to overcome challenges facing the supply chain from farm to fork.

Ursula Lidbetter OBE, Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, said: “We are extremely pleased to be involved in this key location for future economic growth in Lincolnshire, investing £5.3m into crucial infrastructure provision on site and developing the new Agri-food Centre of Excellence.

‘The Holbeach FEZ will build on its close proximity to the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, focusing on the high-value food chain as well as research, innovation and technology for a variety of food industries. Regarded nationally as an East Midlands Manufacturing Zone, the site is expected to support 2,034 jobs and over 900 new homes.”

Cllr Colin Davie, Executive Member for Economy and Place, said: “Agri-food and food manufacturing are of enormous importance to the county economically, and the FEZ will strengthen our place in the national food manufacturing scene. The presence of the university on the site will help unlock the larger project, bringing much needed investment and highly skilled jobs to Holbeach. I’m delighted to be taking this important step forward.”

Professor Val Braybrooks, Dean of Holbeach for the University of Lincoln, said: “The agri-food sector and its supply chains underpin the economy of Greater Lincolnshire. Growing and evolving global food markets are creating unprecedented opportunities for both established and early stage businesses as suppliers of innovative new products and technologies. The centre of excellence will provide these businesses with even greater access to the university’s world-leading expertise and facilities, boosting strategies for developing R&D in the agri-food sector and enabling them to invest in new technologies with confidence.”

The new facility will include microbiology and chemistry laboratories, a high-tech test kitchen and sensory suite, break space, and seminar rooms. It is designed to house a community of leading industrial scientists and their support teams, working to meet the innovation, research and knowledge transfer needs of Greater Lincolnshire’s agri-food businesses, notably small and medium-sized enterprises.

Councillor Nick Worth, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Growth and Commercialisation for South Holland District Council, said: “This is great news for not only Lincolnshire, but also for South Holland as a district. Having a cutting-edge centre for technology in the agri-food sector will not only provide fantastic opportunities for highly-skilled jobs for the region’s young people, but will place Holbeach front and centre as the leading light for food manufacturing technology in the country.”

The Holbeach FEZ is funded by the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, Lincolnshire County Council and the Midlands Engine, with South Holland District Council and the University of Lincoln partners in the scheme.

Pictured from left to right: Councillor Nick Worth (South Holland District Council), Halina Davies (Greater Lincolnshire LEP), Paul Jackson (South Holland District Council), Councillor Colin Davie (Lincolnshire County Council), Simon Wright and Professor Val Braybrooks (University of Lincoln) and Mark Tinsley. (Greater Lincolnshire LEP).