31st March, 2017
Intended to be open by the end of the year, the Centre will be created through a major £450k refurbishment project funded from the Society’s charitable reserves and a grant of £42k from the South West Growth Fund.
The Society was set up in 1777 for the improvement and encouragement of Agriculture, Manufacture, Commerce and the Arts, and the Board of Trustees see this project as a realisation of those defining principles; of the Society getting back to its core business of supporting the agricultural and food sectors.
Best known for hosting England’s only four-day Royal Show, the Society’s charitable work extends to supporting young people through agriculturally related education; organising environmental projects and awards; funding travel scholarships in agriculture, and providing a strong learning environment at the Royal Bath & West Show. The new Innovation Centre will place the Society at the hub of rural enterprise by supporting agricultural businesses, land-based skills training and micro food & drink companies.
Commenting on the announcement, the Chief Executive of the Royal Bath & West of England Society, Rupert Cox said;
“We are delighted to announce the creation of an Agri-tech & Food Innovation & Training Centre here at the Showground. The Society is determined to expand its present charitable activities by adding value to the agricultural sector and food industry through the provision of this facility.
We know that initially the commercial returns will be minimal, but recognise our obligation to our rural stakeholders, especially in these times of uncertainly associated with the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. I hope our forebears of 1777 will be proud of the decision made by Trustees.”
The new Centre will include a conference & seminar area for 80 people; a commercial test kitchen for young food businesses to explore scaling-up their business; small meeting rooms for one-to-one business advice clinics and some commercial office space for agri’, food or rurally-focussed companies.
The Society envisages a wide range of groups using the facilities; from farmers undertaking knowledge transfer projects, higher education graduates undertaking research projects, further education students gaining farming knowledge and skills, the rural workforce gaining vocational skills to increase their employability and micro food & drink businesses looking to expand and grow.
Rupert Cox continued;
“While we have a range of facilities and users for the Centre, we will be working with several partners, such as Innovation for Agriculture, to deliver the exciting menu of opportunities the Innovation Centre will provide, as we believe that collaborations on this scale will make the centre even more successful.”
It is hoped that work will start before the Society’s prestigious Royal Bath & West Show that starts on 31st May and runs until 3rd June, so visitors to the Show and other events will be able to see progress throughout the summer season at the Showground.