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An appetite for success: BIA drives food innovation in Ireland’s West

Designed to foster export potential in Ireland’s food sector, the extensive BIA Innovation Campus is enabling food entrepreneurs to get started and empowering food businesses to scale. 

Co-located on the Teagasc site in Athenry, Co Galway, BIA offers companies state-of-the-art food-grade facilities together with access to specialist technical knowledge as they start up and scale. These facilities include food production units and co-working kitchens, along with learning and innovation spaces.

To further support innovative Irish food businesses and enable them to scale internationally, BIA is also uniting industry stakeholders, research-performing organisations, education and training providers, and entrepreneurship networks to build a strong, interconnected food innovation network. 

Innovation in the food sector is vital if Ireland is to diversify its offering and support the world’s food production needs this century. Fortunately, food and drink entrepreneurs who want to start or scale a business in the West of Ireland can benefit from being part of one of the most ambitious food projects ever developed in this country. 

Made possible by over €5m in Regional Enterprise funding, the purpose-built €8.2m Bia Innovator Campus aims to transform food entrepreneurship in the West.

It’s co-located on the Teagasc site in Athenry, Co Galway, so companies can access specialist technical knowledge as they start up and scale. Combined with BIA’s state-of-the-art facilities, Teagasc’s food innovation and product development expertise is invaluable to food businesses. 

In fact, BIA’s facilities and support services have been carefully conceived to support food entrepreneurs on every stage of their journey, from having the kernel of an idea to successfully exporting to multiple markets. In 2022 alone, the BIA team had 3,133 interactions with SMEs in 21 counties.

For example, when Rosaleen Coates needed to expand her gluten-free bakery business, Rosaleen’s Kitchen, she turned to BIA Innovator Campus for help. 

Not only was she able to select a 60 square metre production unit on the campus, but she also worked with the BIA innovation and product development team to help her choose new manufacturing equipment and develop the right manufacturing processes. 

Specialist facilities for start-ups

Set to create 360 new jobs in more than 40 companies between 2023 and 2026, this extensive food innovation and incubation campus offers 2,301 square metres of work and training space across three new buildings.

Entrepreneurs with an idea for a food business can rent space in one of BIA’s four co-working kitchens on a pay-per-visit basis. These incubation facilities give them the opportunity to test and experiment. Over time, as they research and validate their idea, they can rent space for longer periods. 

These food-grade kitchens are fully kitted out with specialist meat, dairy, seafood and general equipment to which small and start-up businesses would not normally have access. 

Food grade facilities are notoriously expensive to set up, but BIA enables start-ups to de-risk as they go by having access to the right facilities for their needs at every stage of growth.

Enabling Irish businesses to scale

Once their businesses begin to grow, they can move to one of nine 60 sq m incubation units or on again to one of three 240 sq m scale-up units, each of which is customisable to the needs of the businesses using them. The largest units are designed to enable growing SMEs to add new product lines or scale up production to cater to demand from retail multiples and overseas markets.

These units are also open to start-up food entrepreneurs who started at the kitchen table and now need dedicated production capacity, but don’t have the seed capital to invest in their own facility. In summer 2023, four clients are lined up for the incubation units and one for a scaling unit.

World-class sales enablement

The BIA campus is also home to a 60-seater auditorium with demonstration opportunities, including state-of-the-art AV equipment so a company can run product demos for overseas buyers. This helps cut both travel costs and carbon emissions.

Other on-site facilities include a seminar space for 48+ and a buyers’ showcase to allow small companies to bring Irish and international retail buyers on-site. Bord Bia supports this process with advice and introductions.

To further support the community, BIA also offers founders and promoters who are at the desk research stage are meeting rooms, pods and hot-desk spaces for of their business development. 

Companies based there can also avail of an array of commercial and technical supports, including regulatory advice, mentoring, training and development, and collaboration with industry network and brand-building community, Bread and Jam, which offers workshops, webinars and other events.  

Furthermore, BIA’s training offering is aligned with Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board (GRETB), which has 16 culinary stations on the campus to help train people in hospitality including kitchen skills.

In terms of industry training, 880 people attended 51 workshops, training events and webinars run from BIA in 2022. 

Powering a thriving ecosystem

BIA is not just for tenant businesses. Other food businesses can also benefit from its in-house expertise and resources. 

The BIA dedicated onsite innovation and product development team helped The Dough Bros to develop good manufacturing processes, operational efficiency, and audit preparedness in its new  production facility. BIA has also given commercial support to help develop The Dough Bros brand and accelerate the growth of the business.

BIA will also be an invaluable resource for farmers, food educators, food and hospitality training agencies, and related non-governmental organisations.

The funding BIA received from the REDF kickstarted the project and got it off the ground. When some development costs proved higher than expected due to the pandemic, the Rural Redevelopment Scheme was able to support the project further.

Together with Enterprise Ireland, Teagasc and GRETB, BIA’s founding partners include Galway County Council, the Western Development Commission, Athenry Community Council, Sccul Enterprises CLG and the Local Enterprise Office network. 


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