MSc in AgInnovation
Engineering & Informatics
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Veterinary
Paul FlynnEmail Phone
Alice Perry Engineering Building
This Masters in AgInnovation course, a one-year distance education/blended learning entrepreneurship development programme, aims to fill the gap in terms of entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship skills for the agri-ecosystem in Ireland. Key stakeholders include micro, small, medium and large agri-companies as well as farmers.
The aim of this course is to teach people how to:
* Identify areas for innovation specifically within the agri-domain
* Create innovation-driven enterprises or to create new business units within an existing company
Particular consideration is given to helping participants address:
* Challenges around commercialising innovations (ideas and technologies);
* Business constraints and guidelines (margins, CAGR, lifetime value, COCA, etc.);
* Other difficulties related to getting new agri-products to sizeable markets (“crossing the chasm”).
This course will help participants increase their skills, share best practices and to accelerate innovation maturation and transfer into business. The three main areas it will deliver skills in are with regards to:
- better comprehension of all business constraints with respect to teaching participants how to create companies specifically in the agri-sector;
- stimulation of entrepreneurial spirit, foster innovation and improve entrepreneurial skills;
- understanding the challenges and gaps behind innovation leading to markets.
Applicants should hold an undergraduate degree, 1st or 2nd class honours in any discipline, along with three years of relevant industrial experience; or an Ordinary or 3rd class honours undergraduate degree, along with five years of relevant industrial experience; or a recognised professional qualification and five years of relevant industrial experience. Candidates who do not meet the minimum entry criteria are encouraged to contact the programme administrations to discuss eligibility and may be interviewed to ascertain their suitability for the programme.
Built on the successful AgInnovate Process at NUI Galway, this MSc in AgInnovation has three core pillars:
Students will learn the fundamentals of ethnographic research in the form of Primary Market Research, market validation and problem definition specific to the agricultural environment.
Design Thinking for the Agri-Sector:
The Design Thinking methodology is particularly relevant to those interested in innovation in the agricultural domain. This process requires a focus on the problem being addressed in its real-world agri-context to facilitate the development of a sustainable response.
MIT’s 24 Steps of Disciplined Entrepreneurship:
The successful and real-world orientated “Disciplined Entrepreneurship” 24-step process from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) forms the basis for minimal viable business product (MVBP) development within the agri-domain.
Participates will design products which are more adapted to the market and ready for sustainable, scalable growth. The course will include customer-focused problem identification, problem validation, market analysis, technology viability assessment, competitive positioning, team building, product lifecycle planning, marketing strategy, and sales channel analysis. Comprehensive agri-focused business plans will be developed. With the help and advice of professionals, in close contact with experts in different fields (finance, intellectual property rights , etc.), students will receive support for developing an innovative agri-project. Our project-oriented approach facilitates progress around validated problems relevant to employment or personal interest with a view to innovating to meet such identified agri-needs.
The programme is delivered via a distance education/blended learning model which provides the learner with flexibility in choosing when and where they wish to study.
Finistere Venture’s Kieran Furlong believes that the Republic of Ireland can be “a hub for European AgTech as all the ingredients are here - a longstanding, export-oriented agri-food industry; world-leading research at Irish universities and institutions such as Teagasc; and, of course, the thriving IT, biopharma and medtech sectors … AgTech is essentially the combination of all of these, so we see great potential for start-ups here.” (Irish Times, 2017). It is clear that there is an identified need to support intrapreneurs within existing businesses and innovative agri-entrepreneurs. These people are experts in their own domain however need support in order to make the transition from having a problem to solved and an idea that responds to that problem, to generating jobs for others and themselves making Ireland “a hub for European Agtech” (Irish Times, 2017).
“AgTech is developing at pace across the country and the agencies [EI, LEO’s & Teagasc] involved are anxious to bring increased focus to this area” (TSSG, 2017). For individuals, farmers or those engaged as sole traders within the agri-domain, they often have great ideas, and if they can develop a better of understanding of business and its rules, along with detailed insights into a customer’s needs, these people can bring their agtech innovations through to successful commercialisation. Within existing businesses, skilled and engaged employees can pursue new ideas that support the mission and vision of the business, thereby supporting it to launch new products and services or pursue new markets. For existing businesses, delivering these skills to future intrapreneurs is also addressing the fact that many businesses are now in an increasingly challenging, noisy and competitive marketplace, with millennial job hopping becoming more common. Enterprises that can support employees’ aspiration to try out are ideas through structured, supportive process may experience a higher retention rate of valuable, committed and enthusiastic staff.
Employment in the agriculture/forestry/fishing sector in the Western (and broader BMW) region makes up 8% of regional employment (CSO, 2017). This has, for a number of years, exceeded that of the rest of the state which has about 5% in the sector. Agriculture, particularly in the West of Ireland, represents a significant proportion of Irish industry and exports (nationally, the sector is worth €13.54 billion according to Teagasc). This sector will benefit from the development of more innovation-driven, sustainable and scalable agri-enterprises.
Investment in agtech globally has experienced significant growth from €309M in 2013 to €1.01B in 2016 with the vast majority activity focused on early stage innovation driven enterprise. Countries such as Israel and New Zealand have tracked this trend (Pitchbook, 2017). The arrival of agri-focused venture capital firms in Ireland such as Finistere Ventures, a Californian VC firm in partnership with Ireland’s sovereign development fund (ISIF), is recognition of the potential for innovation in the agricultural technology domain in Ireland. ISIF have committed €20M to an investment fund targeted at making Ireland the “AgTech Island”. Missouri-based venture capital firm The Yield Lab opened one of the first Irish-based AgTech Accelerators in Galway in 2017, further recognising the requirement for a structured approach to scaling innovation-driven responses to validated agricultural needs. The future looks bright for those who are ready.
According to PitchBook, who monitor funding deals closed by venture capital across a range of domains, companies in the Irish agri-domain who were in a position to avail of funding opportunities have succeeded. The same data suggests that a gap exists for the provision of skills that identify agri-domain needs and facilitate responses that are commercially viable, sustainable and scalable enterprises. In a survey we carried out within the agri-sector, there was a clear need to support enterprises that want to get into the Irish agri-startup and innovation pipeline.
The unveiling of Project Ireland 2040 Plan this year, the arrival of venture capital such as Finistere Ventures in 2017, the opening of The Yield Lab AgTech Accelerator in 2017, and the significant contribution that the agri-domain makes to the Irish economy all point to an industry that is in the process of accelerating towards an innovative future. This MSc in AgInnovate aims to support the emerging agri-startup and innovation pipeline in the years ahead.
Workload: Part Time - Distance Education/Blended Learning
Workload Type: AgInnovate I/II Lectures (Contact)
Workload Description: 80 total contact hours = 60 online class hours total in lectures + 20 online contact hours total with mentors (8 hours every second week for 20 weeks)
Hours: 4 / Frequency: Every Week (10 out of 12)
Average Weekly Learner Workload: 3.33
Workload Type: AgInnovate I/II Independent & Directed Learning (Non-contact)
Workload Description: 400 total non-contact hours (20 hours every week for 20 weeks)
Hours: 20 / Frequency: Every Week (10 out of 12)
Average Weekly Learner Workload: 16.67
Workload Type: AgInnovate III Lecturer-Supervised Learning (Online + Face-2-Face Contact)
Workload Description: 160 hours total of project guidance from supervisor (3.25 hours online every week for 40 weeks + 5 hours face-2-face every month for 6 months)
Hours: 3.25 / Frequency: Every Week (20 out of 24)
Average Weekly Learner Workload: 4.00
Workload Type: AgInnovate III Independent & Directed Learning (Non-contact)
Workload Description: 800 hours total of individual or team-based project work (20 hours every week for 40 weeks)
Hours: 20 / Frequency: Every Week
Average Weekly Learner Workload: 20.00
Workload Type: AgInnovate IV Lecturer-Supervised Learning (Contact)
Workload Description: 24 hours total of project guidance from supervisor (1.5 hours every week for 16 weeks)
Hours: 1.5 / Frequency: Every Week
Average Weekly Learner Workload: 1.5
Workload Type: AgInovate IV Independent & Directed Learning (Non-contact)
Workload Description: 576 hours total of project work (36 hours every week for 16 weeks)
Hours: 36 / Frequency: Every Week
Average Weekly Learner Workload: 36.0
Total Annual Hours = 480 Hours (AgInnovate I/II) + 960 Hours (AgInnovate III) + 600 Hours (AgInnovate IV) = 2040
Total Weekly Learner Workload = 44 Hours for 24 Weeks (AgInnovate I or II and AgInnovate III) and 24 Hours for 16 Weeks (AgInnovate III) and 37.5 Hours for 16 Weeks (AgInnovate IV) = 39.25 Average Hours for 52 Weeks
Total Weekly Contact Hours = 8.83
Please see the delivery notes for details.
AgInnovate I: Agri-Needs Finding to Concept Generation (10 ECTS):
- Online materials (in the Blackboard site for the module) and guided reading;
- Weekly online evening lectures and workshops with associated activities and discussion;
- Monthly campus based, face-to-face Saturday lectures and workshops;
- Individual and/or team research on an identified, specific need.
Online attendance and participation is an essential component of this course as are periodic on-campus sessions. The following topics and will be covered and expanded with regard to a selected need:
- Introduction to structured process of needs finding
- Area analysis and stakeholders
- Weighing factors and filtering needs
- Needs brainstorming and introduction to product design
- Go-to-market basics
- Legal affairs basics
- Business models
AgInnovate II: Concept Development and Implementation (10 ECTS):
The following topics, grounded in the agri-domain, will be covered and expanded with regard to a student determined need:
- Research and development strategy
- Exploration of prototyping facilities
- Exploration of technology development
- Intellectual property strategy
- Financial modelling
- Prototype evaluation design
- Go-to-market strategy
- Funding sources; venture capital and angel funding
- Quality systems and assurance
- Licensing and alternate pathways
AgInnovate III: Innovation Project (40 ECTS):
Developed in parallel with AgInnovate I & II, students will work in teams or as individuals for the duration of Semesters 1 and 2 on identifying a real-world problem particular to the agri-domain that requires an insightful technological solution, inventing and implementing the solution, demonstrating its validity and commercial viability (and iteratively improving the solution if necessary), and developing pitches for internal RD&I leaders or external funding/risk capital.
AgInnovate IV: Minor Thesis (30 ECTS):
The overall goal is for the student to display the knowledge and capability for independent research work on agricultural innovation at postgraduate level. The minor dissertation enables the student to acquire deeper knowledge, comprehension, abilities and perspectives needed for conducting and completing independent long-term research projects as part of a new innovation driven enterprise or as a unit within an existing company. The student will be able to synthesise and communicate the knowledge and skills of their research, analysis and conceptualisation, demonstrating their skills in writing, and using standard conventions for bibliographies, citations, sources, etc. Students will submit proposals to potential supervisors early in the second semester, with the final research topic to be agreed upon in consultation with the supervisor.
The student will submit their original piece of primary research on a topic of relevance to their agricultural innovation specialism in an article-based format: a 5,000 word article which is ready for submission to a peer-reviewed journal of agri-domain relevance, plus a 2,000 word literature review and 2,000 word defence of the chosen research methods/methodologies.
Alice Perry Engineering Building
Please apply via the Springboard+ website.