New training facility aims to drive food sector innovation

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food processing industry, Industry, Food

A recently opened UK university based food packaging and processing training factory, supported by equipment manufacturers and organisations, is aimed at food sector employees.

The £3.5m National Centre for Food Manufacturing at the University of Lincoln’s Holbeach campus will offer training opportunities from tailored short courses to degree programmes for staff at all levels in the food processing industry, claims its Dean, Val Braybrooks.

She said that the Centre will also support the university in its efforts to further research and innovation in the area of food packaging and processing automation

Collaboration

Braybrooks argues that the Centre is innovative in that its provision has been shaped and dictated by food companies in the region who have been working together to support the facility.

The training factory, she added, has state of the art equipment provided by industry suppliers including a £1.5m fully automated production line for ready meals, gas analysis equipment for modified atmosphere packing (MAP) as well as packaging coding and dating equipment, a sauce depositor, ultra-violet technology and a fork lift truck.

Stuart Rose, executive chairman of UK supermarket chain, Marks & Spencer, officially opened the facility, and he claims that “Holbeach will ensure a steady flow of trained professionals into the food manufacturing industry, enabling companies …to benefit from continual innovation from our suppliers.”

Seeking sustainability

In light of growing interest in devising sustainable, cost-efficient pack and processing solutions, academic institutions are increasingly being supported and sought after by companies and retailers to find potential operational benefits.

UK-based retailer Tesco recently announced it was working with one veterinary university in England in a bid to encourage greater academic collaboration over supply chain challenges.

Groups like packager Sealed Air also announced a similar team up last year with South Carolina-based Clemson University to create a teaching, research and service facility.

And Coca-Cola has provided $400,000 to one US-based university to encourage development of new sustainable forms of packaging through a scheme that could see other beverage and food manufacturers following suit.

The funding will be used to support a proposed Packaging Innovation and Sustainability Centre at Michigan State University (MSU), which has been devised to focus on evaluating pack sustainability from a scientific perspective.

Susan Selke, acting director of MSU’s School of Packaging, said that the centre was seeking further support from other commercial groups both in terms of initial and longer-term support that it hopes could come, in part, from the beverage industry.

Greener beer and wine

Moreover, greener brewing and wine production is on the syllabus at the University of California as construction begins on a new Winery, Brewery and Food Science Laboratory on the campus from June.

With completion of the 34,000-square-foot research centre expected by 2010, the university claims that the complex will provide scientific research, student training and even collaboration with industry.

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