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Work starts on £3m regional food academy

Posted 10 October 2008

Partners at the launch

Businesses across the West Midlands are set to benefit when a new food industry centre opens at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire.

Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands has awarded Harper Adams more than £3 million to develop and operate the West Midlands Regional Food Academy (WMRFA), to provide a variety of services and activities in support of the food industry in the West Midlands – particularly small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

The WMRFA will be situated in an old mill building at the centre of the Harper Adams campus. The mill will be renovated and converted to house a range of food technology facilities, including a product development kitchen, processing hall, cheese room, taste panel room, focus group room, instrumental analysis room, seminar room and a central teaching theatre, which will seat 100 students and allow hands-on demonstrations for training courses, school visits and public events.

Mark Pearce, Corporate Director of Economic Regeneration at Advantage West Midlands, said: “We are delighted to be able to support the region’s food industry, working with Harper Adams University College here in Shropshire.

“The new food academy will make a real difference to the economy of the region, as well as drawing national and international attention to the key role that the West Midlands plays in the production and processing of food in the UK. I am delighted to see construction work begin.

“The new centre will help to deliver two key priorities of the Regional Economic Strategy: to promote a learning and skilful region and to create conditions for business and economic growth, both of which are crucial in helping to increase the Gross Value Added for the region and reduce the £10 billion output gap.”

Ralph Early, Principal Lecturer in Food Science and Moral Philosophy, who led the Harper Adams funding bid, said: “The purpose of the West Midlands Regional Food Academy will be to energise interaction between the region’s food industry and higher and further education institutions and centres of technical expertise, as well as raising the profile of the West Midlands region’s food industry.

Ralph Early added: “The topic of ‘food’ touches on almost every academic interest within Harper Adams, from agricultural food production through to food tourism and food engineering. The University College is therefore a good choice as the higher education institution in the West Midlands to lead the WMRFA project for the long term benefit of the region’s food industry and the region’s economic development.

“In a world where issues of food security and food supply chain resilience are of increasing concern to governments, businesses and citizens, and where food prices are rising, national strategic thinking about the UK’s food supply system will inevitably move towards ways of reinvigorating and increasing national and regional food production capability and capacity. 

“Harper Adams is very strongly placed as one of the few institutions in the UK that has the ability to address these issues in informed yet pragmatic ways, including the provision of training and education in relation to food production and processing.

“The creation of the WMRFA will reinforce and develop the University College’s role as the UK’s leading institution specialising in food from ‘farm to fork’.”
 
Notes to Editors:

Advantage West Midlands is one of nine Regional Development Agencies in England whose role is to provide leadership and action to create more, better jobs and an improved quality of life for all in the West Midlands.

The WMRFA’s activities will include developing and delivering professional and accredited training and education, technical support and knowledge transfer to food businesses and graduates for employment in the region’s food industry. 

It will also address approaches to sustainable food production, the adoption of low carbon and carbon neutral technologies and, consequently, the reduction of carbon footprints. 

Additionally, it will work with schools across the region to increase understanding of the food supply chain and the work of the food industry, and the region’s food industry as a source of careers.

Harper Adams University College has been successful in a number of multi-million pound funding bids in recent months. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) has agreed to provide £4m over three years to start a Rural Employer Engagement Development Network (Reednet), which will develop training to suit specific companies and specific professions, allowing individuals to work towards qualifications while remaining in their full-time positions.

A further £2.9m capital injection from the funding council will be used to build a student services centre, which will bring all the Harper Adams student support functions under one roof.

Gross Value Added (GVA) measures the contribution to the economy of each individual producer, industry or sector in the United Kingdom.

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