Florida Polytechnic University is joining forces with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., a Fortune 500 company specializing in taste and smell research, to open a Citrus Innovation Center on the university’s northeast Lakeland campus.

IFF is Florida Poly’s first corporate partner to be located directly on campus. In addition to the partnership's research, focus, IFF and Florida Poly are creating student scholarships and a new research fund. According to a press release, IFF will provide:

  • Hands-on internships and job opportunities for Florida Poly students
  • Funding and collaboration on faculty research
  • Sponsorship for capstone projects
  • Support for academic programs

To house the initiative, a new building is being added to the university’s growing stable of unique, modern and award-winning buildings, including the iconic Innovation, Science, and Technology Building, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.

IFF’s nearly 30,000-square-foot building will include sensory and experience venues, research labs, processing, analytical departments, a fully equipped citrus garden and amenities for hosting customers and partners.

“According to the agreement, IFF will occupy the new building on campus, which will be financed, built, operated, maintained, and owned by private entities,” said Lydia Guzman, a spokesperson for Florida Poly. “The university is not investing any capital in the new facility.”

It is not clear who is paying for the structure or its cost.

“This cutting-edge facility represents one more way we’re combining creativity and science, working closely with our partners and customers,” Christophe de Villeplée, president of IFF’s scent division, said in the release. “Citrus extracts are an essential component of our creations, bringing consumers delightful freshness. By building a transformational, holistic citrus development ecosystem in one of the world’s central citrus locations, we will further deepen our knowledge, and facilitate the creation of differentiated citrus products that delight global food, beverage and fragrance customers, while doing more good for people and planet.”

A rendering of the Florida Poly/IFF Citrus Innovation Center's interior

The building is designed, engineered and will be built by Ryan Companies, which will also maintain the building when construction is finished, currently scheduled for late 2023.

“The ethereal nature of the design concept was challenging, however Ryan was able to successfully create a dynamic, unique architectural expression that reflects the nature of the work being done within the facility, while complementing the existing architecture on the campus,” Linaea Floden, regional director of Architecture for Ryan A+E, said in a prepared statement.

Florida Poly and IFF held a groundbreaking ceremony earlier this week.

“We are proud that IFF recognized the strategic advantage in partnering with our university,” Florida Poly President Randy Avent said in the release. “Our students and faculty are making real contributions in growing the tech industry by influencing the designs of pioneering technologies and real-world solutions. We’re excited about the cross-disciplinary learning opportunities for our students through this partnership in fields such as metabolomics, automation, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and biometric data capture and analysis, to name a few.”

“What an honor to celebrate this beacon for innovation and excellence, that is a perfect blend of science and creativity,” Nicolas Mirzayantz, president of IFF’s Nourish Division, said in a press release. “As we lay the foundation for a global citrus innovation center, we re-affirm IFF’s commitment to invest in R&D capabilities that unlock the development of innovative solutions for our customers, partners and communities we operate in.”

IFF is a $11.7 billion American corporation that produces flavors, fragrances, and cosmetic ingredients used by companies throughout the world. Its website states that IFF is a leader in food, beverage, health, biosciences and sensorial experiences. Headquartered in New York City, it has at least 150 offices and manufacturing facilities in more than 65 countries.

About 1,600 students are enrolled at the university.

The research that will be conducted will not include any agricultural aspects of the citrus industry or any citrus greening studies. The bacterial disease, spread by a tiny insect, is decimating Florida citrus crop.

IFF has been commended for its forward-thinking environmental sustainability. Its 2030 “Do More Good Plan” has goals that focus on emission reductions, zero waste to landfills and water stewardship.

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Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to Jazbablog in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at [email protected] or 863-272-9250.

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