The Irish government has invested nearly $40 million to make the country’s dairy processing sector more innovative, competitive and sustainable in order to position it as a global leader in the industry.

According to the Irish Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the investment will help maximize long-term growth opportunities that will be created by an anticipated 50 percent increase in the country’s milk production by 2020.

According to Irish officials, the investment is for two initiatives. First, $28.3 million is reserved for a Dairy Processing Technology Center (DPTC) supported by the Department of Jobs through Enterprise Ireland and dairy industry partners. It will be hosted by the University of Limerick. The remaining funds, $11.3 million, will be invested in the expansion of the Moorepark Technology Ltd (MTL) pilot plant facility in Fermoy, County Cork.

Officials say seven of the 10 major dairy companies are participating in the initiatives. These include Arrabawn Co-op, Aurivo, Carbery, Dairygold, Glanbia, Kerry and Tipperary Co-Op. Lakeland Dairies is part of the DPTC consortium only.

The Irish Dairy Board and North Cork Co-op are investing in MTL. The University of Limerick will lead nine other Research Performing Organizations (RPOs) in the DPTC to deliver the research and technology required, which will create 52 new jobs for highly skilled researchers over the five-year term of the center.

“The food sector is a key area that we have targeted as part of our action plan for jobs,” says Richard Bruton T.D., Ireland’s minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation. “This is a sector which offers massive potential for regional employment, which is a major focus of our 2015 plan, and clearly the removal of milk quotas offers huge opportunities that we must exploit in a planned and strategic way in order to support jobs growth. That is why Minister Coveney and I have decided, through our agencies Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc, to make this significant investment in innovation in the dairy industry. This market-focused technology center supported by my department will bring industry, the education system and government together to develop commercial, new technologies which will support the growth of the dairy industry here in the coming years. In this way, we can crucially create more jobs across the regions and ultimately improve communities right across the country.”

Simon Coveney T.D., Ireland’s minister for agriculture, food and the marine, says the $11.3 million investment in product and process innovation will ensure value is added to raw materials in Ireland and maximizes the contribution of the dairy sector to employment creation and the economy.

 “Ultimately, this kind of investment can build the kind reputation for excellence in all things dairy that creates a platform not only for export growth, but also for inward investment by major global players in the food industry,” says Coveney. “This exactly the kind of initiative envisaged in Food Harvest 2020, and I am delighted to be associated with it.”