One of Michigan State University’s (MSU) newest facilities is their Food Processing and Innovation Center (FPIC), a center filled to the brim with all the resources needed to test and launch new products without breaking the bank.  

The Food Processing and Innovation Center

The $8 million, 8,000-square-foot facility located in the heart of mid-Michigan is an affordable, turnkey solution for companies of all sizes looking to turn a product idea into a reality. Unlike other business incubators and accelerators, the FPIC houses all the entry-level, state-of-the-art equipment and resources needed to produce, process, package, and launch products to market.

Matt Birbeck, FPIC Director, says the facility is first of its kind. “This facility is going to open the door to the future of food. And MSU is going to be on the front line. It will be the first university in America that owns and operates a functional, full-service factory.”

Cost vs. benefit for food producers

Companies who take advantage of the FPIC facilities do with relatively low economic risk. In fact, businesses using the FPIC can recuperate their rental costs by testing out their newly developed products in a real market. Since the center is fully licensed under and compliant with USDA and FDA regulations, companies can sell products developed in the facility, including red meat, poultry, and seafood products.

To put things in perspective, Birbeck says this: “If you’re making fresh pies, the question becomes, ‘How do I get my product in the freezer section of my grocery store?’ Now, instead of buying $300,000 worth of equipment, you spend $30,000 to rent space at FPIC.” Not only is the space affordable for established start-ups, but it’s also a viable solution for large food and beverage companies seeking a “playground” for product innovation.

The win-win for food suppliers

It took a village to raise funds to develop the FPIC — the State of Michigan, US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency, and Michigan State all helped transform the initial concept into a reality.

But food suppliers continue to play a critical role, as a cutting-edge facility needs cutting-edge equipment. In support of the project, many vendors are offering FPIC purchasers deep discounts on their products. Some vendors even donated equipment outright. The generosity of these food industry suppliers is much more than a simple act to help businesses get their products off the ground — it’s an opportunity to grow their own businesses.

Bruce Harte, Senior Technical Advisor at the FPIC, lays it out like this: “Fledgling companies will imagine and hone a product here, succeed, then have to produce it on their own with their own equipment. If they learned on your machine, you’re going to get the call.”

The FPIC officially opened its doors in August, marking the occasion with an open house for local businesses, vendors, regional out-of-state companies, and even some global CPGs. However, the facility had been operating since May, hosting the inaugural client Burgers Unlimited.

Companies interested in renting out FPIC should contact Matt Birbeck at birbeckm@msu.edu.

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