Rural Innovation Centre named after Gloucestershire agriculturalist

The RAU's centre for rural innovation and skills has been named in honour of the late philanthropist, businessman and agriculturalist, John Oldacre.

The John Oldacre Rural Innovation Centre at Harnhill, Gloucestershire, part of the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), was given its new title at a dedicated ceremony this month (12 December).

The foundation that bears John Oldacre’s name has been a long-term supporter of universities making significant donations to agricultural education and research. Last year the RAU received over £2m from the charity to secure funding for PhD and MSc students in perpetuity.

Present at the naming were John Oldacre’s granddaughters, Sally Bult and Jill Sinnott. They were joined by Professor Joanna Price the RAU’s Vice-Chancellor; RAU Vice Presidents The Earl Bathurst and Simon Pott, several RAU staff and a number of businesses linked with the centre.

Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the RAU said: “John Oldacre was a passionate supporter of agriculture and wanted to ensure that generations to come were able to benefit from the education and industry-relevant research that he championed. The university is honoured that the Rural Innovation Centre will carry his name and commemorate his Foundation’s three decades of investment in research and innovation at this University.”

Sally Bult said: “The family are proud that John’s long association with the RAU, with Agricultural research and with the county of Gloucestershire will be remembered in the name of the John Oldacre Rural Innovation Centre. We are also delighted that postgraduate research will continue to be supported at the RAU, thanks to his Foundation.”

John Oldacre was the third generation of his family to lead its group of businesses, which were founded in Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire. 

In 1946, after distinguished service in the RAF, he took on responsibility for the range of companies from his father. The Oldacre Group developed to the point where it was bought by Unigate in 1986. 

The John Oldacre Rural Innovation Centre offers rural skills training to both students and external clients in courses such as arboriculture, crops, pesticides and estate maintenance. It also hosts an array of research trials, and is home to a range of agri-tech start-up businesses which are members of the RAU’s Farm491 project, which supports and develops rural innovation.