A £1.9MILLION research and innovation centre which will create 20 jobs and safeguard 18 more has opened in Dorset.

Draper Ventilation Limited – draper VENT – opened the Agri-tech Innovation Centre at Dorset Innovation Park, the Enterprise Zone on Winfrith’s former atomic energy site.

draperVENT received a £740,000 Growing Places Fund loan from Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). It bought the land and developedthe 1,720 square metre facility within a year.

draperVENT says the site will host research and innovation in automated livestock farming systems to achieve higher levels of animal welfare and sustainability.

The company will also start an apprenticeship programme with local colleges and the site will host training, research, product training and demonstrations.

Dorset LEP expects the project to create 20 jobs, safeguard 18 and increase group-wide company turnover to more than £20million, all by 2025.

LEP deputy chair Sara Uzzell said: “Dorset’s agri-tech sector is worth over £108 million and has been identified as a high growth sector in Dorset’s Local Industrial Strategy.

“The facilities at the Agri-tech Innovation Centre will place draperVENT at the forefront of ventilation innovation.”

draperVENT makes de-humidification, ventilation and renewable heating systems for buildings used in poultry farming.

Managing director Paul Draper said: “After much planning and construction work, we are delighted to open our Agri-tech Innovation Centre. We are especially excited to have a workplace where our 32 staff can meet face to face and utilise the space and equipment incorporated into this centre.

“Dorset is the perfect place to take draperVENT to the next level because of the drive and determination to see agri-tech businesses succeed in the region.

“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 thanks to it holding Enterprise Zone status. There is also the opportunity for us to collaborate with other innovative on-site businesses.”