There is a need for urgent and fundamental changes to the way in which innovation and entrepreneurship education is delivered in Ireland today. An innovative and entrepreneurial perspective is particularly relevant within a programme on food management and product development. While Failte Ireland research has identified that food is not the primary reason for tourists to visit Ireland, 80% of those interviewed are "food positive" in other words a positive food experience can significantly enhance their experience. Therefore, according to Failte Ireland the focus should be on "food in tourism" as opposed to food tourism.
In recognising the importance of the food and drink sector regionally, Limerick City and Council recently launched a Food Strategy for Limerick (2016-2018). The research conducted in developing this Food Strategy for Limerick indicates that Limerick has many strengths in its food sector. Strengths include improved diversity in Limerick's food offer in recent years, a growing food producer base, new emerging food festivals and a growing enthusiasm from food stakeholders. However, the research also indicates weaknesses such as a small number of speciality producers with little evidence of 'joined up thinking' with regard to developing food. The Food Harvest 2020 is the Government's strategic vision for food development in Ireland which has recently been updated to Food Wise 2025 and identifies a number of key focus areas for the food industry in the next 5 years. Based on Food Wise 2025, the primary goals for the local food industry include increased value added output, greater consolidation and scale, higher profitability, an enhanced SME (small to medium sized enterprises) base, better targeted R&D and enhanced market responsiveness.
In considering the Irish food and drink sector in its broadest sense, the sector is both Ireland's most important manufacturing industry and the single most important category of consumer spending. According to IBEC (2016) the sector faces enormous challenges ranging from energy costs, commodity costs, labour costs to consumer costs, consumer demand and regulatory compliance costs. Responses to these challenges require significant input from a multiplicity of national departments and agencies including educator providers. However, the growth potential of the sector, an increase in exports to 12 billion, as targeted in Food Harvest 2020, can be achieved if these challenges can be addressed and the industry remains competitive and innovative. Consequently, this programme aims to align itself with the needs and objectives of industry by assisting in developing innovative world class Irish food and drink products. This programme is of particular relevance to graduates of business related disciplines.