The UK government is pouring more than £18m into a high-tech food manufacturing and distribution campus called "SmartParc" and a research centre in Derby.
The cutting-edge facilities, highlighted by a vertical farming operation, will create up to 4,500 jobs, helping to offset some of the economic challenges in the city presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-year project will start in the first quarter of 2021.
“SmartParc is part of a £300m investment to put Derby city and the UK at the heart of the future of sustainable food manufacturing globally," SmartParc chief executive Jackie Wild said.“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."
The SmartParc centre will give other local companies access to expertise in growing their operations in low-carbon and other advanced technologies, according to the report.
The news was hailed by city leaders as a “massive boost”.
“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," Derby City council leader Chris Poulter said the government’s funding commitment was a huge vote of confidence in the city’s economic recovery strategy. "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.”
The SmartParc site, which sits on 140 acres of the former Celanese site near Spondon, is aimed at bringing together food producers for "knowledge and investment – reducing food waste, lowering carbon outputs and increasing UK food security."
“It will also act as a community hub, with a new food innovation centre and skills facility and planned partnerships with local charities, schools and universities to reconnect people with the food they eat," Wild said.
A central distribution facility will allow manufacturers to consolidate both raw materials and finished goods, improving efficiency and lowering food miles.
According to the UK government, the other initiatives being carried out as part of Derby’s recovery strategy include:
- The launch of a £5m growth fund to help local business create new jobs
- Building of a 330-capacity food, drink and performance space at Derby Market Place to encourage visitors and assist the hospitality sector
- Creation of a new performance venue at Becketwell
- A £23.7m bid for funding to secure an exciting new future for Derby Market Hall, create new office space and improve city centre public space
- A redundancy working group formed to provide practical help to workers losing their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis
- Support for private investors who want to develop in Derby. Companies behind schemes that will deliver more than £450m of homes, offices and other facilities have committed to carrying out their schemes despite the economic impact of COVID.