Food and Drink Skills Partnership Comes to Fruition in Multi-Million Pound Project

Monday, October 28, 2019 - 10:16

A long-term partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink (NSAF&D) has come to fruition with the launch of a multimillion pound cutting edge facility; set to boost the country’s largest manufacturing sector.

The National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) was officially opened in October 2019 and is the result of a close working partnership between the two organisations. 

The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink exists to provide businesses across the UK’s food and drink manufacturing and processing industry with a single source of access to leading edge workforce training, vocational study and skill upgrades designed to boost productivity, innovation, profitability and growth.

The NSAF&D first worked with Sheffield Hallam University to develop its food engineering degree and degree apprenticeship provision and subsequently spotted the gap in provision for a research-led centre.

NSAF&D then provided vital services in the development of the cutting-edge centre; from statistical research and horizon scanning to jointly writing the bid for the NCEFE development.  

The new research-led centre, designed to improve current food engineering processes, address the sector skills gap, and boost the competitiveness of the country's largest manufacturing sector, includes pilot-scale production facilities, laboratories, workshops and teaching spaces. Students and engineers can also access the plant room - the beating heart of the facility - to control and study the building's bespoke environment.

The Centre's facilities and expertise will focus on tackling food industry challenges such as productivity, sustainability through minimising waste and reducing energy use, and addressing the health agenda. It will also support the food and drink industry by developing new and enhanced facilities, processes and equipment, and creating a knowledgeable and skilled workforce.

The new Centre has been made possible with funding from partners including £2.78 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), £6.92 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE, whose responsibilities have now been taken over by the Office for Students and Research England) and £619,000 from the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.

NCEFE collaborates with global and national businesses including Siemens, Nestle, Quorn and Arla Foods as well as local SMEs such as Dext Heat Recovery and JJA Pack.

Justine Fosh from the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink said:

“The launch of the NCEFE facility is a great example of the results of our close work with a range of key industry stakeholders, supporters and partners in delivering our mission of making the food and drink industry in the UK the best in the world. We’re delighted to see our partnership with Sheffield Hallam grow and impact on the industry.”

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: 

"It's inspiring to see our region once again leading the way with cutting-edge university and industry collaborations. I'm proud that the Sheffield City Region was able to support this important development with more than £600,000 in Local Growth funding.

"Before becoming Mayor, I had the highest regard for Sheffield Hallam University, but it's only in the last 18 months that I've seen the massive value the university has as a force for good in our region.

"We are already internationally renowned for the Sheffield City Region's excellence in advanced manufacturing and advanced wellbeing, and this fantastic new centre yet again demonstrates the ambition, the innovation and the vision we have here in the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID)."

Minister for Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said:

"This government is committed to boosting economic growth across the whole of the Northern Powerhouse and levelling up every part of the UK. 

"Once again we have a national centre of excellence in Sheffield, supported by Government funding, which will make UK industry even more globally competitive.

"The cutting-edge science pioneered at this extraordinary new facility will benefit people for generations to come and it is right here in the middle of the Northern Powerhouse."

Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said:

"Sheffield Hallam has established itself at the leading edge in the food and drink sector for excellent research, our partnerships with industry and knowledge transfer offer - this world- class facility now builds on that foundation.

"We are also very proud of the regenerative contribution NCEFE will make to the local community, providing a tangible vision and ambition for this part of the city's offer in terms of jobs, skills, the local economy, infrastructure and the location."

Professor Martin Howarthdirector of the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering, said:

"It is just under a year to the day since we held an event to mark the start of construction work on the NCEFE site; today I am delighted to be officially launching our new Centre.

"Not only are we supporting regional and national businesses and SMEs by researching and developing creative solutions to a range of existing and emerging food industry challenges, we are creating highly skilled, highly knowledgeable graduates with the practical experience needed to really make a difference, in this vital industry and beyond."

Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: 

"Today's opening of NCEFE is a major step forward in both safeguarding the future workforce of the food and drink industry and in helping deliver collaborative solutions for innovation.

"The establishment of NCEFE will be a major contribution to building a pipeline of highly talented engineering graduates heading into careers in food and drink manufacturing.

"This is a real example of the industry working alongside academia to solve businesses specific challenges. We are delighted and honoured to have the opportunity to work with Professor Howarth and his team on such an ambitious and much-needed project."