State grant supporting new Beverage Innovation Center

The Center for Dairy Research is getting a $750,000 grant from the state to support the creation of the Beverage Innovation Center, where entrepreneurs and others will be able to run small-scale trials of new beverage products.

“When the Beverage Innovation Center is up and running, there will be no other facility quite like it in the United States,” said John Lucey, director of the Madison-based research center.

The new center will include a processing and bottling system that small businesses and entrepreneurs can use to test small amounts of beverages. Those prototype runs can be used to support further development down the road.

According to WEDC, most processing and bottling systems can only be used for large quantities, making it harder for entrepreneurs and other small businesses to get off the ground.

Aside from the bottling system, entrepreneurs will also get access to industry experts at the Center for Dairy Research, as well as licensed space and other useful equipment.

Vincent Rice, vice president of sector strategy development for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., says the new innovation center will “serve as an important resource” for companies throughout the state — particularly those in the dairy industry.

“At a time when Wisconsin is experiencing a milk surplus, this center of excellence will provide dairy farmers with new avenues to pursue innovation in the beverage industry,” Rice said.

The state grant from WEDC supports the agency’s long-term strategy of supporting “high-growth business clusters,” according to a release. Previous examples of WEDC-supported industry centers include the Global Water Center and Energy Innovation Center, both in Milwaukee.

This beverage-focused center is also being supported by a $250,000 grant from Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

WEDC is also announcing the creation of a development and growth program for clients of the TURBO program, which stands for Technology, University, Research, Business and Opportunities. TURBO operates out of the Center for Dairy Research, and WEDC has previously partnered with the program to support dairy producers.

The new Beverage Innovation Center represents the latest partnership between WEDC and TURBO. The WEDC release shows the two groups doled out $200,000 in equipment reimbursement grants between 2013 and 2016 to 11 small dairy producers, leading to more than $2 million in public and private investment.

WEDC approved a second round of equipment reimbursement grants for the same amount last year, which TURBO is currently awarding.  

The new development and growth program for TURBO clients will connect them with consultants who can help identify new markets and assist with other elements of business development. The release shows these consulting services will go toward rural companies in the state with fewer than 50 employees.

See more on the Center for Dairy Research: