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    £2.5 million project to cut food manufacturers' emissions on London’s largest business park

    Posted 18 October 2023

    “Park Royal’s food businesses embody the challenges we aim to address for the food supply chain to move to net-zero.”

    A production line is checked by a person holding a tablet

    Academics at Harper Adams University are set to partner on a £2.5 million project aimed at cutting emissions from food manufacturers based on London’s largest business park.

    The academics from Harper Adams are part of a consortium led by Brunel University London, which was awarded the £2.5 million grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the four-year project, in which they will collaborate with food manufacturers based at Park Royal in West London.

    The industrial area – the largest business park in London, straddling the boroughs of Ealing and Brent – is ‘London’s Kitchen’, a thriving hub that’s home to more than 500 businesses in the food sector, who collectively produce 30 per cent of the capital’s food and drink and contribute £8 billion a year to the economy. Yet, as with the broader UK food system, Park Royal’s businesses are grappling with technological challenges.

    The new consortium will be working alongside them to come up with innovative ways of reducing the emissions of food supply systems to as close to zero as possible.

    The UK’s food sector is substantial, employing four million people, but has an oversized impact on environmental performance: it consumes nearly a fifth of the country’s energy and is responsible for about a third of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions - so getting the sector greener is of prime importance to help the UK meet its net zero goals.

    Park Royal will be the setting for the Place-Based Impact Accelerator Account (PBIAA) focused on net-zero food supply systems – one of ten PBIAAs announced by EPSRC as a £41 million new scheme of research project funding to boost UK economic growth and address regional needs.

    Starting in February next year, Brunel, alongside civic partner West London Business and higher education partner Harper Adams University, will develop a comprehensive programme tailored to address the challenges Park Royal faces with energy, waste and productivity.

    This will bring about positive change by reducing carbon cost, improving resilience and stimulating economic growth in West London.

    The overarching mission is to foster circular food economies, fortify absorptive innovation capabilities, and supercharge productivity levels within the cluster of partners and stakeholders.

    Professor Geoff Rodgers – Brunel’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Enterprise and Employment, who as project co-investigator will lead on the civic and business engagement aspects of the project – said: “The Park Royal industrial area is a significant asset within the London and UK economies and an important employment centre in West London. This award provides an exciting opportunity to build our relationship with Park Royal’s food businesses whilst helping to address the challenges they face with issues such as net zero, automation and waste.

    “The project will open up numerous opportunities for Brunel academics to engage in impact and collaboration activities and will cement the relationships that Brunel has developed over the past two years.”

    Professor Savvas Tassou – director of Brunel’s Institute of Energy Futures, who as principal investigator will provide technical leadership for the project – said: “The project offers a tremendous challenge but also opportunities for Brunel, Harper Adams and academics across the UK to work closely with the food businesses at Park Royal and their supply chains to accelerate innovation, productivity and decarbonisation of the food supply system – at Park Royal and beyond.

    “Ultimately, this project aims to set a benchmark for excellence and innovation in the broader UK food and drink sector.”

    Brunel’s established expertise in engineering, materials and manufacturing, digital technologies and food supply chains will be enhanced through its partnership with Harper Adams.

    The low-carbon food production area will be managed by the team from Harper Adams, coordinated by Dr Iona Huang, who will also lead on the engagement with the wider food systems academic community.

    She added: “Our contribution to the project will centre on low-carbon food production, focusing on sustainable food business practices, indoor farming, brewing, and other innovations to enable net-zero food supply systems.

    “The food businesses involved encompass the production and packaging of ready meals, bakeries, dairy, vegetables, and meat and fish processing.

    “The collaboration will enable colleagues at Harper Adams to participate in various ways, including innovation strategy development with partners, prototype development, and through demonstrations of technologies developed here at Harper Adams.

     “This is an exciting opportunity to work with the Brunel University team, led by Professor Rodgers and Professor Tassou. There will also be opportunities for Harper Adams staff and student secondments and placements within the food businesses.

    “Park Royal’s food businesses embody the challenges we aim to address for the food supply chain to move to net-zero.”

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