Planning permission had been granted for the facility and building would start imminently, the company confirmed.
Dairy Crest research and development and technical staff would be relocated from its nearby Crudgington site onto the Harper Adams campus from next month before moving into the centre, it said. Initially they will be based on the upper floor of an existing University building.
The company has announced plans to close the Crudgington factory next year.
Dairy Crest, which makes brands including Cathedral City, Clover, Country Life and FRijj, aims to deliver 10% year-on-year growth through new product development and hopes the innovation centre will help achieve this.
In addition to the lease of premises and land, the university and Dairy Crest have entered into a knowledge collaboration agreement that will further strengthen links between the two organisations.
The partnership will enhance Dairy Crest’s product innovation through regular interaction with staff and students and provide Dairy Crest with a link into leading research within the agriculture and food sectors.
In turn, the firm has undertaken to support the University curriculum by providing student placements, staff secondments and guest speakers.
“Innovation is at the heart of Dairy Crest’s business and I see the new centre as key to delivering our business strategy over the next few years,” said Dairy Crest ceo Mark Allen.
“We are already working closely with Harper Adams on several research projects and I am certain this will be a long-term partnership which will go from strength to strength.
“I am particularly pleased that the centre is going to be at Harper Adams University – already a centre of excellence in terms of food, farming and science education. This will also allow Dairy Crest to continue our long-standing association with Shropshire.”
University vice-chancellor Dr David Llewellyn said: “This partnership comes at a time when the UK Agri-Tech Strategy is being implemented by the government and when universities and businesses are being increasingly encouraged to work together to support economic growth.”