Industry specialists to be trained in advanced food security skills

23 May 2011 02:00:00.000

PA 166/11

The University of Nottingham is to take a lead role in a new £12m advanced training programme for industry specialists in advanced food security skills.

Across the country 100 PhD students and several thousand masters students will be funded by The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to develop the skills necessary to ensure the UK continues to make significant contributions towards national and global food security – covering the full range of food production from soil to plate.

The University of Nottingham has been awarded £4m to run one of the four major new post graduate training programmes at the School of Biosciences together with the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.

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Professor Jerry Roberts, Head of the School of Biosciences, said: “The Nottingham led programme has been designed in response to feedback from industry about training needs and will be flexible and responsive, spanning the entire agri-food chain, including soils, water, crops, animals, post-harvest, food and nutrition. The aim is to provide participants with lifelong membership of a vibrant community of colleagues in industry and academia, enabling them to obtain a wide range of technical and contextual skills that can be deployed for maximum impact across the chain.”

The BBSRC Advanced Training Partnerships will provide postgraduate level professional development in the area of agriculture and food production for a large number of industry specialists across the UK. Scientific and technical staff working in the UK’s agri-food sectors will be supported to develop the skills necessary to ensure the UK continues to make significant contributions towards national and global food security.

The University of Nottingham in collaboration with Harper Adams University College, Cranfield University, Rothamsted Research and a number of industrial partners will establish a strategic training hub for the advancement of the UK agri-food industry.

The training will be aimed at individuals employed throughout the agri-food sector. While the training is at postgraduate level, where candidates do not have formal academic qualifications, there will be recognition of industrial experience and prior learning in meeting entry standards.

Professor Roberts said: “The wide-ranging nature and structure of our partnership will enable participants to select training across the entire agri-food chain, allowing them to tailor the training to their requirements. For example, a person working in fresh produce might wish to select modules in crop production alongside food quality and supply chain management while an individual working in animal nutrition might wish to select modules in genetics, animal physiology and molecular nutrition.”

The BBSRC Advanced Training Partnerships will be delivered flexibly to ensure that specialist staff from a widest range of companies can benefit.  This will include distance learning, short-courses, work-based training, research placements and secondments.  Training modules can be built into full Masters degrees, and Partnerships will also be developing Professional Doctorates in agricultural and food sciences.

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said: “We established this innovative scheme in response to a clear need to help the agri-food sector engage with cutting edge of research related to food security. I am pleased to note that we have funded partnerships across the full range of agri-food research areas. This will help to meet the challenge of future food security by strengthening the UK industry skills base in areas such as veterinary science, animal welfare, soil science, plant breeding, crop science and food manufacturing.”

The three other training programmes will focus on Sustainable and Efficient Food Production, Food Quality and Health and Advanced Training in Intensive Livestock Health and Production.

Richard Longthorp, Chair of the AgriSkills Forum, said: “These new training schemes are very welcome. Over the next ten years we need 60,000 new people across the skills pyramid which exists within the agriculture and horticulture sectors. At the highest skill level, there are a significant number of people who require the specialist research and scientific expertise needed to drive forward productivity and sustainability of food production in the UK. This scheme will provide a vital mechanism to develop those skills within the sector.”

Dr Helen Ferrier, Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Adviser, NFU said: “This is a great opportunity for the farming industry in the UK. We need all the advisers and technicians involved in agriculture and horticulture to be able to engage with cutting edge science, and these training programmes will support them to do so. It's also good to see the spread of skills that will be covered across BBSRC's Advanced Training Partnerships. It is vital that the UK retains the best people and enhances their skills in agronomy, soil management, animal welfare, and many other areas highly relevant to efficient, productive farming.”

Claire Hughes, Head of Health, Nutrition and Science at Marks & Spencer, said “Skills in farming are obviously vital for the future of food, but we're very glad that this scheme includes opportunities for training across the food industry - from field to fork. To ensure future food security we are not only challenged to produce enough food but we also need to know how to process it well to minimise waste and maximise nutritional value. With the right mix of skills in the UK we can ensure that the food that reaches the consumer is of the best possible quality for the minimum of inputs of energy, land and other resources.”

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More information is available from Professor Jerry Roberts on +44 (0)115 951 6339,; or Nancy Mendoza, BBSRC External Relations on +44 (0)1793 413355,; or Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Manager in the Communications Office at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5751,

Notes to editors:

BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences and the largest single public funder of agriculture and food-related research.

Sponsored by Government, in 2010/11 BBSRC is investing around £470 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

For more information see:

The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at:

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Jerry Roberts on +44 (0)115 951 6339,; or Nancy Mendoza, BBSRC External Relations on +44 (0)1793 413355,;
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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