A multimillion-pound food engineering research centre has launched in Sheffield, with the aim of boosting the competitiveness of the country’s largest manufacturing sector.
The National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) at Sheffield Hallam University was officially opened by Sheffield City mayor Dan Jarvis this week.
The centre is designed to improve current food engineering processes, address the sector skills gap and boost the competitiveness of the food manufacturing industry.
Its facilities and expertise will focus on tackling food industry challenges such as productivity, sustainability through minimising waste and reducing energy use, and addressing the health agenda. It also aims to support the food and drink industry by developing new and enhanced facilities, processes and equipment, and creating a knowledgeable and skilled workforce.
Ian Wright, CEO of the FDF, said the opening was “a major step forward” in safeguarding the future workforce of the food and drink industry.
“The establishment of NCEFE will be a major contribution to building a pipeline of highly talented engineering graduates heading into careers in food and drink manufacturing,” he added.
“This is a real example of the industry working alongside academia to solve business’ specific challenges.”
The centre includes pilot-scale production facilities, laboratories, workshops and teaching spaces.
The centre and associated food engineering degree and apprenticeship have been developed in partnership with the FDF and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink. Businesses such as Siemens, Nestlé, Quorn and Arla Foods, as well as local SMEs such as Dext Heat Recovery and JJA Pack, are set to collaborate with the centre.
Professor Martin Howarth, director of the NCEFE, said: “Not only are we supporting regional and national businesses and SMEs by researching and developing creative solutions to a range of existing and emerging food industry challenges, we are creating highly skilled, highly knowledgeable graduates with the practical experience needed to really make a difference, in this vital industry and beyond.”
Funding for the centre included £2.8m from the European Regional Development Fund, £6.9m from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and £620k from the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.