Royal Agricultural University launches its vision for £100m Innovation Village

  • A concept for a sustainable, carbon neutral, Innovation Village which will be home to a community of entrepreneurs, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers committed to addressing the major global challenges we all face, has been unveiled today by the Royal Agricultural University

The proposed £100m development, on a 29-acre site at the University’s Cirencester campus, is central to the RAU’s vision and aims to support industry, food producers, farmers, and landowners in developing sustainable solutions for healthy land and nature, food production, and resilience in rural communities. 

The University will be liaising with local residents and stakeholders to shape the proposals as they progress with a view to submitting a planning application to Cotswold District Council later this year. 

Outlining the concept at today’s launch event, RAU Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter McCaffery said: “A first for Gloucestershire – and indeed the UK – we are delighted to be working with the support of Cotswold District Council, GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership, Gloucestershire County Council, and the Department for International Trade to establish a rural Innovation Village here at the RAU, the UK’s global agricultural university. 

“A £100M project, centred on supporting industry, food producers, farmers and landowners in developing new innovative practices while protecting land health and building resilience in rural communities, our Innovation Village will turbo-charge SME agri-tech enterprise activity with a distinctively rural feel. We anticipate we will increase the RAU’s current contribution of £52m to the local and regional economy by half as much again over five years when the project is up and running.” 

The site will comprise a number of integrated areas including a Research and Innovation centre, live/work residential units, business start-up and support spaces, as well as business and conferencing hospitality facilities. 

A cluster development of this nature, applied to agriculture, food and land management, does not exist in the UK and gives the proposed Innovation Village the opportunity to impact globally, addressing issues such as climate change, sustainable land use and food production, biodiversity loss, and heritage management. 

The initiative, which has a GDV of between £80 and £100m and already has the support of the Department of International Trade (DIT), Gloucestershire County Council, and GFirst LEP, will provide a rural complement to the proposed developments in the urban core of the county such as Cyber Central in Cheltenham and Kings Quarter/The Forum in Gloucester. In addition, there will be benefits to the prosperity and productivity of rural communities, locally and regionally. 

Dame Fiona Reynolds, Chair of the RAU’s Governing Council, said: “As well as benefiting the Royal Agricultural University, as a global centre for the future of sustainable farming and food production, this will also benefit the people of Cirencester and other local communities. 

“We are determined that the Innovation Village will be green and beautiful and, importantly, led by the landscape which inspires us daily. It will reflect our core values as well as inspire intellectual, community, and collaborative working.”