Establishment of a strategic training hub for the advancement of the UK agri-food industry

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Biosciences


Our ATP encompasses the entire agri-food sector and includes partners from leading research-based universities/institutions: University of Nottingham (top in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise in Panel 16: Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Science), Cranfield University (which accounts for 25% of the UK's full-time postgraduates in the agriculture and environment sector), Harper Adams University College (the UK's leading land-based HE college) and Rothamsted Research (the largest agricultural research centre in the UK). Therefore, within this consortium, we have both complementary research expertise and experience in offering all levels of training within the sector from CPD courses to research degrees. The wide-ranging nature and structure of our ATP will enable participants to select training across the sectors. For example, an individual working in fresh produce might wish to select modules in crop production alongside food quality, food safety and business management. Such an integrative approach will enable us to respond to industry need, and offer the potential for innovative cross-feeding in such training. A common theme from our industry partners was that graduates are highly specialised, but also mobile within the industry, and would benefit from a wider understanding of the agri-food sector (e.g. Bakkavor responded that the ATP would provide an 'opportunity for cross-skilling courses for key food sector roles'). We will develop a flexible and responsive Advanced Training Partnership spanning the entire agri-food supply chain, including soils, water, crops, animals, post-harvest, food and nutrition. Feedback from industry has demonstrated the demand for such an holistic view, as the modern agri-food industry is not confined to particular 'sectors'. We aim to harness the scientific and teaching expertise of higher-education (HE) partners with scientific outputs from the BBSRC and other funding bodies, to deliver to a wide cohort of work-based learners, that will encompass and enable a 'CPD to PhD' progression. Our comprehensive offer will enable participants to become life-long members of the ATP, enjoy the benefits of belonging to a vibrant community of colleagues in industry and academia, and obtain a wide range of technical and contextual skills that can be deployed for maximum impact across the chain. One-day courses, workshops and conferences will be organised in association with the appropriate levy bodies and other consortium colleagues who are experiences in delivery of training. This will minimise overlap with existing provision and allow us to pool resources to develop more effective training. Training towards formal qualifications will be delivered in a number of formats. Feedback from industry has shown that flexibility is essential, hence modules will be offered via intensive blocks of teaching, work-based modules and e-learning. For those who decide to pursue an MSc, MRes or Doctorate, the research project will be based in industry with joint supervision from the employer and an academic partner. Placements in industry and academia, of flexible duration (Knowledge Exchange Partnerships) will be offered within the ATP. These may be 'stand alone' or research training placements for those undertaking MSc or Doctoral studies. Partners have experinence of managing joint academe/industry research degree programmes through, for example, CASE awards. Fee bursaries will be offered for individuals currently employed in the agri-food sector. In the first 3 years of the partnership, the bursaries will cover 100% of the course fee, with industry contributing staff time and travel expenses. From year 4 onwards, the level of the fee bursaries will gradually reduce, with industry contributing a greater proportion towards the course fees each year. We have thus designed a financial model that will ensure long-term sustainability of the ATP beyond the grant period.

Technical Summary

Following extensive industry consultation, we have prioritised an initial cohort of training courses that will be developed at the start of the ATP (detailed in Case for Support) which will be delivered as one day courses and intensive blocks. Further short courses and modules will be developed over the life of the partnership, in response to industry needs. These will include courses based wholly, or partly, on e-learning which require considerable investment in academic development time alongside e-learning technologists, and hence will not be available in the first year of the ATP. Depending on individual requirements, training will be accredited either as CPD (in association with professional bodies such as BASIS, IFST and BSSS) or as credit-bearing modules which can contribute towards a postgraduate qualification. Participants will benefit directly from the excellent facilities available across the partnership, which are outlined in the Case for Support. Hands-on experience of up-to-date techniques and current technologies will be provided during practical classes and research placements. In addition, all participants will be registered students and hence have full access to university facilities, such as the library and electronic journals. Courses will be delivered by research active staff who are also skilled in training and knowledge transfer, hence able to translate current research into practice. An annual congress, hosted on a rotational basis by the ATP partners, will comprise a range of activities including speakers from industry and academia, debates and thesis presentations, and will be linked with existing training events, such as those organised by the levy bodies. We will also develop a web-based community to facilitate communication between memb

Planned Impact

Feedback from a sample of 36 companies across the agri-food industry, ranging from SMEs to international corporations, has generated evidence of training needs in the areas shown in Table 2 and Figure 1 of the Case for Support. Our ATP has the potential to reach across the entire agri-food sector which employs an estimated 3.6 million people in the UK (NFU, 2010). The proposed ATP, when fully implemented, will significantly enhance the competitiveness and productivity of the UK agri-food sector, through continued intellectual development and stimulation of relevant knowledge and skills acquisition, for a vibrant workforce across the food chain. Our flexible ATP structure, which spans the entire agri-food chain, will repond to the emerging training needs of industry and be sustainable in the long term. Specifically our ATP will: - Increase and improve the skills base of the agri-food industry's professionals through their participation in the training we will provide. - Increase the profitability and competitiveness of the companies whose staff participate in our ATP courses by virtue of the application of enhanced skills. - Increase the number of skilled and qualified professionals in the UK's agri-food industry, thereby enabling greater contribution to national and global food security. - Increase links between industry and academia, as well as between the businesses involved and the ATP's academic partners. The benefits are numerous e.g. lubricating future collaborative research projects, CASE studentships, industrial placement opportunities for students, increased graduate opportunities and development of joint MSc and doctoral programmes between the academic partners. - Enhance masters-level training opportunities in agri-food subjects for graduates not currently employed in the industry. - Facilitate the development of integrative distance learning and blended learning programmes tailored for those employed in the agri-food industry, thereby allowing greater flexibility and choice in both subjects studied and modes of learning. NFU (2010) The Recovery: Why Farming Matters.


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