Written evidence submitted by the Institute of Food Science and Technology
The Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) is the leading qualifying body for food professionals in Europe and the only professional food body in the UK concerned with all aspects of food science and technology.
We are passionate about engaging food professionals, recognising standards, growing skills and informing debate. Our members cover all aspects of food from manufacturing, retailing, and R&D to academia and enforcement.
IFST is a registered charity with individual members working across all points of the food chain. We are independent of government, industry, and lobby or special interest groups.
IFST is submitting this evidence because advancement and application of food science and technology are in the objectives of the organisation as well as improving public knowledge and awareness of important issues related to the production, safety and quality of food.
1. Are food security, sustainability, diet and health headlines which your governments recognise as strategic?
Yes. These terms are present in most policy statements but developed strategies may have different meanings depending on the situation in the nation/region.
2. If not, what are the headlines which drive government strategies in Science and Technology?
Food safety, authenticity and growth are terms commonly used. Despite awareness of these global issues, we often find that other scientific and technological advances are of higher national priority than FS&T. These include: disease control, cancer research and other health related topics, big data, efficiency, and agriculture.
3. How important is FS&T in the strategic research calls?
FS&T is very important in strategic calls from those government departments with an interest in food and agriculture.
The answer to this question is a touchstone for national commitment to developing the FS&T base. Without real support and pre-competitive work, discovery and innovation is not likely to occur and opportunities for the next generation will not be available. Is FS&T “called out” in national research and training or is it buried within other challenges? FST&R is mostly included in calls relating to agriculture and manufacturing. There are specific calls on food safety topics by the Food Standards Agency.The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have initiated specific calls on diet and health topics.
4. Are there mechanisms/funding routes to attract your best scientists toward food-related issues?
Mechanisms more than funding routes. There are some companies and organisations that are making determined efforts and there are a number of campaigns to raise the profile of working for the food and drink manufacturing industry but the campaigns are seperate and so the message not as strong as it could be.
The answer to this question can be split into two parts. Firstly, do we have good education in FS&T at the undergraduate and graduate levels? Generally yes, including a new food engineering degree specially devised by the food industry, however, there are not enough graduate places offered in the UK to meet the demand for skilled jobs in the UK. On top of this, approximately 50% of places are filled with overseas students. It is important to continue to invest in the promotion of careers in the F&D industry as it can be difficult to attract good calibre students into FS&T at the undergraduate level. Secondly, are there mechanisms to attract the best young scientists to a career within FS&T? See above comment but much more could be done in schools and universities to educate children on the opportunities in FS&T.
IFST is trying to work with many of the providers of careers and educational resources in FS&T to bring together the various offerings into a more accessible and aligned set of resources.
5. Is the private sector involved in government-directed FS&T research initiatives?
Yes, the private sector is involved in government-directed FS&T research initiatives. For example, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and Campden BRI conduct industry-led strategic needs analysis and meet regularly with industry representatives. FDF and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and others have recently engaged in discussions with relevant UK Research Councils to raise awareness of pre-competitive research needs to address grand challenges.
There are joint discussions on research or innovation needs, and industry is consulted. Are they required or committed to sharing costs and implementing transfer of discoveries? This depends on the topic. Food safety and diet and health often get higher public sector contribution, although most of public funding is focused on quantifying the impact of poor diet and specific nutrients on health rather than on delivering solutions.
How do you think the demands for FS&T will change in the next 10 years?
This question can be considered from different perspectives where the answer may differ: demands from the industry; demands related to global challenges; and demands to maintain basic science within FS&T.
The demands for FS&T will increase. We know from research carried out by the Sector Skills Council, Improve, that there is a big demand for more skilled people, especially in FS&T, due to number of skilled people retiring and to cope with growth in the sector.
2. Do you see any new roles for FS&T at the borders of other disciplines related to global challenges?
IFST sees new roles for FS&T at the borders of other disciplines related to global challenges, especially with plant/animal genetics, agriculture, nutrition sciences, social science, neuroscience, human behavioral sciences, big data, and engineering.
The demands for greater understanding of products and processes to achieve food for health, security and sustainability may require contributions from other specialists. Agreed and appropriate mechanisms to drive these interactions will be required.
3. Should we protect traditional FS&T disciplines?
The IFST believes that we should protect traditional FS&T disciplines; they contribute a large, experienced skill base under a variety of disciplinesUnder and post graduate teaching and research training but also technical apprenticeships and CPD.
While new science and technologies will be required, is the training and research in FS&T being maintained? Should it be strengthened or even allowed to weaken in the light of more relevant and modern approaches to science and technology?
It needs to be strengthened by greater integration with other relevant sciences and technology. There are modern approaches to FS&T and they must continue to be adopted.
4. In light of these questions, what are the needs for education and training in your region?
Continued commitment to FS&T embracing all relevant disciplines mentioned above, training at apprentice, graduate and post graduate levels and CPD.
We have found this to be related to the existing status of food chains in different regions. What are the future needs and limitations of your situation? As per the past but with emphasis on food engineering, food microbiology and the general need to attract more top quality scientists, technologists and engineers. Is discovery and innovation vital or is the development of “Best Practice” more appropriate?
Both are vital to the continued competitiveness of the food industry and the provision of safe and nutritious good for consumers. Whilst ‘best practice’ might give some early benefits, without continued investment in innovation, future continued succ
No two countries are organised in the same way with respect to government ministries, educational organisation and industrial and agricultural practices. This section is designed to give more detailed information on how your country works and to explain how change and improvement could be made. We are very aware that global issues may require local solutions.
1. National Priorities
What government departments are involved and how are strategies developed?
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)
Food Standards Agency
Department of Health (DoH)
Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS)
Research Councils (especially BBSRC, EPSRC, SSRC, ESRC, MRC)
2. Research and Development Investment
What is the investment in research in Food Science and Technology by governments, charitable organizations and industry?
Information is patchy but tends to indicate that public investment in the F&D industry is orders of magnitude lower than in other sectors (eg automobile).
3. Research and Education
Please name universities, colleges or institutes which provide education and training in food science and technology with an estimate of the numbers of graduates and PhDs per annum.
Kings College London
4. Education and Training
As well as academic training, are there opportunities for training in the field, at work, at home and at school which improve awareness and best practice? If so, please give examples.
, Improve/ NSA should be consulted. Campden BRI, Leatherhead Research and other private suppliers also provide significant training on a fully commercial basis.
In addition, the BBSRC has provided funding for the creation of four ‘Advanced Training Partnerships ‘ offering modular MSc and PhD programmes for those working in the food industry to encourage the upskilling of the next generation of food science leaders.
How do governments, academia and industry meet to discuss and improve the national situation in food-chain Growth, Security Sustainability and Diet and Health?
Via trade and research associations (Campden BRI, Leatherhaead Food Research), national advisory committees, KTN's, Defra’s Food Research Partnership forum, through a UK National Technology Platform. Is a global view considered, for example through links with the European Technology Platform Food for Life. jJoint strategies preparedthrough forums for discussion. And is your local adhering body in IUFoST active in stimulating common strategies? No. IFST is involved in some of these but only in its own right rather than through UKFFoST.