About the DEX Network

The DEX Network is a unique community among researchers on the Island of Ireland and the UK with a focus on innovation, sustainability, value-addition and digitalisation within the dairy sector.

The network acts as a platform that helps mitigate against market shocks through facilitating the exchange of knowledge and expertise and identification of skills and capability needs of the sector across the UK and Ireland.

Funded by the ESRC and IRC, the DEX network is run by a number of academics across UK and Irish academic institutions namely University of Ulster, Cranfield University, University College Cork and Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Within the network, we strive to do a number of things:

Be a central resource for information, research and collaboration opportunities relating to the UK and Irish dairy farming industries.

Identify research priorities and conduct collaborative research which can aid the dairy industry farming sector.

Bring together academic researchers from multiple disciplines, dairy farmers, producers, policy makers and other relevant stakeholders to share knowledge and methodologies.

Objective 1

To develop a sustainable network of UK and ROI social science researchers to identify common research priorities and to promote the sharing of research ideas and new methodologies in relation to knowledge exchange for innovation within the dairy farming sector (in the context of significant market changes).

Objective 2

To undertake a scoping study to compare the current and potential forms of knowledge exchange and collaboration among dairy farmers within the UK and ROI and to identify the entrepreneurial, innovation and digitisation skills (and skills gaps) among those dairy farmers.

Objective 3

To build multi-actor networks with non-academic partners to inform research priorities, thus ensuring the sustainability and utilisation of the network in the long-term.

Rationale for the DEX network

Common challenges exist for the UK and the Irish dairy industry, where they have a long history of collaboration. In the UK, exports of agri-food products accounts for over 18 billion euro annually (NFU, 2017). Similarly, in Ireland, exports are worth 12 billion euro (Central Statistics Office, 2019). Both countries import and export over 4 billion euro of agri-food produce to each other every year (Chartered Accountants Ireland, 2020). However, recent shocks such as Brexit and COVID-19 have questioned both countries' international supply chains, trade and funding mechanisms.

In particular, Brexit has major implications for the dairy industry on the island of Ireland, given the highly integrated nature of the supply chain between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, increasing consumer interest in plant-based substitutes highlights the need for innovation and developing market-oriented added-value products. Current and ongoing market challenges has resulted in the need for dairy farmers and producers to rethink their business models and to develop new sustainable solutions for uncertain business conditions. This demands fresh perspectives and a collaborative interdisciplinary approach.

Our core areas of interest fall within the broad thematic areas of innovation, sustainability, value-addition and digitisation of the dairy sector however, we also explore other tangential research areas to these.


The DEX Network brings together multidisciplinary perspectives from social sciences, business, engineering and management areas. These combined perspectives will lead to valuable new research initiatives that will help identify innovative industry solutions.

The outputs from the network’s research activity will be of interest and value to academic beneficiaries and researchers across multiple disciplines. The research will be relevant to a broad range of initiatives and actors/stakeholders, including dairy farmers, producers, trade associations, advisors and policy makers such as Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Northern Ireland), Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Republic of Ireland) and Bord Bia (Irish Food Board). The network will thus add value through bringing together multidisciplinary experts and industry stakeholders to identify industry challenges and co-create priority research themes.

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