Food Quality and Health - Sustaining the Future

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading


Demand for food is changing because of population growth, changing diets and increasing affluence. Food production is under increasing pressure as water and other natural resources become scarcer and competition for the use of land rises. Climate change will alter patterns of production and affect the reliability of supply. Adapting to these challenges to ensure the sustainable supply of sufficient, affordable, nutritious and safe food in a rapidly changing world will require a multifaceted and cross-disciplinary approach that reconnects the food chain. The Food Quality & Health ATP will boost the national capacity in the knowledge and skills that underpin food security, ensuring the UK skills base has the appropriate critical mass and specialist research expertise to meet the challenges. The UK food manufacturing sector employs 410,000 people with a further 2.5 million employed in food retail and catering and 531,000 in agricultural and horticultural production. The agri-food sector is therefore vital to UK health and wealth: hence our partnership aims to ensure the industry employs and is led by individuals with a comprehensive understanding of the complex issues of food security that face the whole food chain. The Food Quality & Health ATP brings together leading experts working on the food chain from production to consumption, from academia and industry, focused on delivering high quality and real-world relevant training for the food and production industries. Consultation has revealed the need for a 'without boundaries' approach to training, that facilitates integration of learning from different points in the supply chain by creating a collaborative network to reconnect the fragmented agri-food sector. Our partnership will ensure the training and education of highly qualified individuals capable of leading businesses in the UK food industry on all aspects of sustainable food quality and health, thus addressing key elements of government, consumer and societal concern associated with food security in the UK and beyond. The programme will deliver training at a number of levels to suit the varying demands of the diverse employees in the food industry. At the highest level of training, the Professional Doctorate, a cadre of high calibre individuals will have the potential to enable the UK to consolidate its strength in terms of international competitiveness and employment. These individuals will be trained in conducting self-directed advanced research that will extend the capacity for innovation and thought leadership of the UK food industry. Training modules will be developed that can be taken as standalone CPD courses and, if desired progressively built towards Postgraduate Certificates/Diplomas or Masters. In each case the training will be designed to accelerate the development of early to mid career professionals and support the industry in developing its skills base. Our vision is a learning framework with a flexible structure that includes industry led elements of CPD, taught modules, active research, and learning in the workplace to deliver training. The Professional Doctorate is an innovative 'science in business' research degree for the food and production industries that brings together modular taught components with a portfolio of industry research and professional practice. The modules will be delivered by experts from across the core delivery partners (University of Reading, University of Birmingham, Rothamsted Research and Leatherhead Food Research) with specialist contributions from a range of Associate Partners. Where participants want to work towards formal Masters level qualifications, these will be accredited via the core Universities. This new approach to flexible and collaborative training will ensure that the expertise and research excellence is best applied to the needs of participants and will synergise connections across the food chain to encourage knowledge exchange.

Technical Summary

The core of the ATP is an innovative science in business research degree; the Professional Doctorate in Agri-Food. The Doctorate will provide high calibre individuals that have the potential to be the leaders of tomorrow with the skills required to integrate the challenges to sustainable supply of sufficient, affordable, nutritious and safe food in a rapidly changing world. The qualification integrates taught components with a portfolio of industry based research, undertaken as part of the company's own research portfolio allowing the qualification to be achieved alongside full-time employment. Underpinning the Doctorate will be a flexible suite of Masters level modules that can be used in a number of other ways to suit a variety of needs. The modules will be run either by Reading or Birmingham to facilitate Quality Assurance and joint degree awarding. The modules will be collaboratively developed and delivered, integrating components from the Associate and Industry partners. Module leaders will seek to incorporate existing 1 day or half day courses from Leatherhead and Associate Partners offering CPD as a component of each module, allowing prior learning to be assessed and built upon. The modules can be taken as standalone CPD activities, or credits accumulated (over up to 3 years) to gain a Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits) or Diploma (120 credits). A Masters qualification can be achieved by combining credits accumulated (120) with a research project (equivalent to 60 credits). The Professional Doctorates combines a portfolio of industry research at a level comparable to a 3 year PhD (equivalent to 540 credits) with 120 credits of taught modules. The partnership includes the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) to facilitate accreditation of ATP modules towards the CPD requirements of IFST membership and Chartered Scientist status. The ATP will be overseen by an Industrial Management Committee to ensure the sectors training needs are met.

Planned Impact

The ATP in Food Quality & Health enables an innovative approach to the delivery of training to the food and production industries to be developed. The partnership between industry, universities and providers of professional training creates a forum within which practitioners, educators and researchers can interact to their mutual benefit. Practitioners will benefit through access to the knowledge and skills base that underpins the development of the industry. This is increasingly important in maintaining the competitive edge of the UK food industry as the market becomes more internationally competitive. The benefit of this ATP's collaborative approach to training in establishing important peer networks was highlighted by our industry consultation. Educators benefit through the opportunity to develop a provision that is better aligned with and responsive to the needs of industry. Researchers benefit as a result of the closer integration of industry driven R&D and the novel science arising from the research base. Innovation in the research base is therefore aligned more effectively with industry needs, enhancing and accelerating the translation of research into practice. The increased focus of government and research funders on issues of food security presents an opportunity to enhance the research base underpinning innovation in the food industry. This ATP represents an important new route through which knowledge exchange can be delivered to ensure this research becomes embedded in the agri-food industry and innovation is translated into growth for the UK. The industry consultation highlighted the expected benefit of this ATP in facilitating closer relationships and mutual understanding between the industry and the research base. This closer relationship is expected to lead to an increased uptake of other knowledge exchange activities for research, such as collaborative R&D, KTP, CASE studentships, Industrial Partnership Awards, and secondments through existing schemes such as Industry Interchange, Industry Fellowships and Industrial Impact Fellowships. The ATP offers the opportunity to make a step change in the provision of training to the industry. Both Masters and Doctoral level training have traditionally been modelled on the provision of qualified researchers in the university sector. Whilst it has been recognised that this model is outdated, changes to the system have hitherto been incremental. Our proposal is flexible to allow the mode of provision to develop over the period for which the grant is awarded. Moreover we emphasise the need to develop the provision collaboratively with other award recipients. Our vision is to develop a model appropriate to the delivery of industry led training which is sustainable and which can be rolled out more widely than the recipients of the ATP funding. We are committed to an in depth dialogue with other ATPs to ensure a standardised model can be adopted more widely as the ATPs mature. As the partnership matures it is expected that it will be attractive to groups outside of the BBSRC funding. For example, the ATP may be attractive to staff at further education colleges that support the agri-food sector and school teachers. Training at this level will enhance dissemination of the ATP skills and knowledge base through entry level training. Opportunities for participants from transition countries to support extension of knowledge to practice may also present a future route to wider dissemination. Whilst extending the ATP to Environmental Health Officer's will indirectly benefit SMEs and micro-businesses that rely on their advice to provide technical training and information. Uptake in these sectors will help to enhance the impact cascade of the ATP.


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