University College Birmingham has unveiled a new £2 million high-tech food suite to train the chefs of the future.
The Food Innovation Suite will train the next generation of industry professionals, featuring food testing and diagnostic technology alongside state-of-the-art kitchen facilities.
The 9,000 sq ft building will be used by students on existing food courses and chef programmes as well as undergraduates in food science, nutrition and food manufacturing.
Food and drink is a key growth sector for the region, employing 58,000 people in more than 1,500 companies across the West Midlands with the former IMI site in Witton identified as a new “food hub”.
UCB has also unveiled new courses including applied food and nutrition, food development and innovation, culinary science and bakery and confectionery technology.
Pauline Lovatt, assistant dean of UCB’s College of Food, said the new facilities and degrees had been developed in response to industry demands.
She said: “The food industry has very creative chefs and very good scientists, but it needs professionals who can link the two areas. The new Food Innovation Suite at UCB will provide first-class opportunities to gain the skills and expertise required to flourish in this growing area of the industry.
“We constantly examine and refresh our courses to ensure our graduates meet the exacting demands of industry. Our degrees lead to a variety of career paths including process development technologists, quality assurance, culinary scientists, development chefs and food product developers.”
The cost of the Food Innovation Suite, situated at UCB’s main campus in Summer Row, has been funded by the university with financial support from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership through the Local Growth Fund.
The suite consists of a series of thematic learning spaces including Create It, Innovate It, Analyse It and Evaluate It.
There is a sensory laboratory for food-tasting featuring eight self-contained booths.
Tasters will be presented with students’ dishes via hatches that lead off a central food preparation area.
The brightness of the lighting within the booths, and the colour of the lighting, can be altered to gauge the effects of visual stimuli on taste and flavour perception – for example establishing if strawberry jelly still taste of strawberry when the red dessert is bathed in an icy blue light.
Sound can be piped into the booths to see if different styles of music affect the eating experience, taste and food appreciation.
There is also a pilot plant with manufacturing equipment used in commercial food production and a media suite for photography, filming and food styling.
There will also be testing equipment to establish the fat, protein and moisture content of different foods as well as a lab to look into the texture, thickness and elasticity of foods.
Prof Ray Linforth, vice-chancellor and principal of UCB, said: “The new Food Innovation Suite will ensure we remain at the forefront of vocational education and training in food-related disciplines. The facilities and our new food degree courses have been designed with industry in mind.”