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Published: July 12, 2020 | Updated: July 12, 2020

Boost for agri-sector as new £1.7m research and innovation centre is confirmed for Dorset

Paul Draper, Managing Director, draperGROUP.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Dorset’s £108m agri-tech sector has received a boost with the news that a new £1.7m research and innovation centre is to be sited in the county.

Dorset LEP has allocated a £740,000 Growing Places Fund loan to Draper Ventilation Limited (draperVENT).

It increases the total investment to £1.7m for the purchase of land and development for the centre at Dorset Innovation Park, an Enterprise Zone in Wool.

draperVENT, one of draperGROUP’s innovative companies, will use the research and innovation centre to further develop computerised climate control systems for the agricultural sector.

The project will centralise the company’s existing workforce in Dorset and create an apprenticeship programme with local colleges, including Kingston Maurward College, to encourage young people into the agri-tech sector.

Paul Draper, Managing Director of draperGROUP, said: “Dorset was the perfect place to take draperVENT to the next level because of its drive and determination to see agri-tech businesses succeed.

“The Dorset Innovation Park plot provides us with an opportunity to develop, test, promote, store and distribute our products while we benefit from reduced business rates and the opportunity for collaboration with other technical on-site businesses.

“We are proud that our dedicated staff will now have an innovation hub and we are thankful to Dorset LEP and Dorset Council for their support.”

Dorset has a long and proud tradition of farming that has shaped the county’s landscape.

The county’s agri-tech sector is worth more than £108m.

Dorset LEP has committed to accelerating the productivity of the high-growth sector, maintain Dorset’s place at the forefront of farming techniques, provide skilled jobs for local people and to enhance food security in the UK.

Luke Rake, Principal of Kingston Maurward College and Dorset LEP board member said: “Dorset’s Local Industrial Strategy identifies agri-tech as a high-growth sector for Dorset and it’s fantastic to have innovative companies like draperVENT settle in our county.

“This project clearly shows Dorset LEP’s alignment with the Local Industrial Strategy, and now more than ever we’re looking to boost agri-tech productivity and earning power in Dorset.

“We’re all committed to supporting scale-up businesses, innovative people, infrastructure developments and new ideas.”

draperGroup was formed in 1995 to sell and install ventilation systems in poultry broiler and free-range layer houses throughout the UK.

The company now design, develop and install their own unique de-humidification, heating and ventilation systems for bespoke buildings used in poultry farming.

Cllr Gary Suttle, Dorset Council Portfolio holder for Economic Growth and Skills and Dorset LEP board member said: “We are delighted that Dorset has such a strong company moving onto Dorset Innovation Park.

“We understand the company will support local businesses and create up to ten high skilled jobs and four apprenticeships by 2025.”

Building works will include a new 470m2 HQ for office space, R&D testing and training facilities for existing and potential customers.

Construction is set to begin this month on the adjacent 1250m2 research and innovation centre, which will be used for product demonstrations, storage and product distribution.

By 2025, Dorset LEP expects draperVENT to safeguard 18 jobs, create 20 new jobs and increase group-wide company turnover to over £20m.

Dorset Council was advised by Ashfords, Sibbett Gregory and CBRE on the land sale.

Michelmores and Cushman & Wakefield advised Dorset LEP and Dorset Council on the loan funding agreement.

draperVENT was advised by SG Financial, Assetsphere and Sampson Coward.