New MSU Innovation Center Aims to Pump Up State Food Industry

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Michigan State University in East Lansing will use a $3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to launch an Okemos-based facility where private companies can scale up and commercialize new food products and production processes.

The Food Processing and Innovation Center — expected to open in early 2016 — is intended to help established food companies develop new products and assist larger-scale start-up businesses.

“The center will be a distinct asset to support the evolution of food processing in the state of Michigan,” says Chris Peterson, director of MSU’s Product Center. “It’s the equivalent of a pilot plant that any food processor can use to develop new products and production processes.”

In addition to the new facility, clients will have access to MSU experts in agri-business, meat, dairy, and fruit and vegetable processing as well as supply chain and packaging.

Peterson notes that, using traditional methods, a company developing a new soup line could spend nearly $160,000 testing concepts in processing, packaging, shelf-life extension, and marketing. At the center, he says those costs would drop to under $19,000.

“If the new venture is unsuccessful, the use of our center reduces risk substantially,” Peterson says. “If it’s a success, the company has a far better idea of the level of investment needed to achieve long-term success.”

Two companies already have made arrangements to develop products at the USDA/FDA-certified center.

In terms of job creation, the center will hire four employees to manage the center. More jobs will be created as companies spin off their new products. More than 300 jobs could be created annually once the center is fully operational, Peterson says.

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