The UK government has agreed to put up GBP12m (US$15.7m) in funding to build a “high-tech” food manufacturing campus in the city of Derby, providing a “low-cost” sustainability-enhanced production base in areas such as vertical farming.

The project is led by SmartParc, a business based in Gerrards Cross, London, that designs and builds production and supply chain facilities. It is headed up by CEO Jackie Wild, who is also CEO of a similar company TSL Ltd.

SmartParc’s new development “will combine world-class food production facilities with shared utilities, amenities and services to provide a highly sustainable, low-cost production base for food manufacturers. It will provide 4,500 new jobs in the area over the coming years.

“It will also provide an additional GBP6.85m to establish a manufacturing research centre in the city, generating 70 new roles and helping scores of local companies to access cutting-edge expertise to grow their operations in low-carbon and other advanced technologies.”

Construction of the manufacturing site in Spondon will begin in the first quarter of 2021 and the plant will partially open for operation later in the year, with the project expected to be fully ready for business in 2024. It will also include a central distribution facility where manufacturers can store raw materials and finished goods.

The research centre will be based at Infinity Park in Derby.

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SmartParc CEO Wild said in a statement: “SmartParc is part of a GBP300m investment to put Derby city and the UK at the heart of the future of sustainable food manufacturing globally. The planned SmartParc campus will combine world-class food production facilities with shared utilities, amenities and services to provide a highly sustainable, low-cost production base for food manufacturers and new ways to reach end customers while reducing food miles and food waste.”

SmartParc will work with local government and institutions such as universities. It added the project is the result of a pilot programme run over the past 18 months at the iHubin hub in Infinity Park. 

Derby city council leader Chris Poulter said: “Throughout the past four months we have been doing all we can to support existing businesses but also looking at opportunities for the future – to diversify our economy, to improve our environmental credentials and to make Derby a brilliant place to live and work.
“Today’s announcement is a massive boost for those plans and we look forward to working with our partners to deliver these fantastic new projects.”

SmartParc CEO Wild added the production facility will help “reduce investment risk for any food business wishing to expand or switch to a lower cost production base and reach new customers”.