Harper Adams University College, which specialises in farming and agricultural studies, is to open a new food industry centre at its campus in Newport, 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).
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.
This 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 ADM, 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 considered 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.”
Food now 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 thought to be a good choice as the higher education institution in the West Midlands to lead the WMRFA project.