Memorandum from the Institute of Food
Science and Technology Trust Fund (IFST)
It is important that the size and scope of the
food and drink manufacturing industry is realised. This industry
is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK. It has an annual
turnover of around £66 billion with more than 500,000 employees
in over 7,000 businesses. This is 12.9% of the total UK manufacturing
workforce and, in turn, it supports the retailing and wholesaling
operations employing almost 900,000 people. The industry also
buys more than two-thirds of UK agricultural produce. Hence, its
strategic development is essential especially when there are demands
in the areas of food safety, product innovation, improved nutrition,
waste minimisation and environmental impact.
It should also be realised that Food Science
and Technology is a multi-disciplinary subject with many practitioners
having experience in Maths, Statistics, Chemistry, Biology, aspects
of Physics, Physiology and Psychology in their undergraduate Food
Science and Technology degree programmes as well as Food Chemistry,
Food Microbiology, Food Safety, Sensory Evaluation, Food Engineering
and Nutrition, for example the multi-disciplinary nature of Food
Science and Technology has made its graduates very versatile and
adaptable and, thereby, sought after by industries other than
the Food Industry, for example the biotechnology industry. Other
Food Scientists and Technologists enter the profession with degree
backgrounds, initially, in Biochemistry, Chemistry, Microbiology,
Nutrition, etc and are "moulded" into Food Science and
Technology through in-house training. Hence, the availability
of the traditional science subjects at university level is essential.
It is very pertinent that IFST hosted a Forum
at The Royal Society, London, on 6 October 2004 on the subject
"The Future for Food Science and Technology". This focussed
on the needs of the Food Industry and profession and how these
are met by the secondary, further and higher education sectors.
An outcome of this Forum is that IFST along with Improve Ltd (the
Food & Drink Sector Skills Council) and the Science Council
are collaborating in a project, led by Improve Ltd, to scope the
skills needs of, and the shortages experienced by, the Food Industry
(processing and retail). All of this is very relevant to the New
It is noted that this New Inquiry is restricted
to English Universities. This clearly limits the value of the
results and recommendations arising from this Inquiry since many
of the issues raised will have UK-wide relevance.
The comments given below are directly linked
with the points raised in the invitation to provide evidence.
The desirability of increasing the concentration
of research in a small number of university departments and the
consequences of such a trend
Although it would be superficially attractive
to concentrate R&D in a small number of universities in order
to achieve economies of scale and create centres of excellence
it should, nevertheless, be recognised that the needs of Regional
Development Agencies to support their local, indigenous Food industries
requires a countrywide provision of underpinning Food Science
and Technology as well as single degree subjects of direct relevance
to Food Science and Technology. The consequences of a trend to
concentrate research effort would be that research provision could
favour one region over another. In this instance research is taken
to include industrially-sponsored R&D as well as Knowledge
Transfer Partnerships (formerly known as Teaching Company Schemes).
The importance of maintaining a regional capacity
in university science teaching and research
This links with the previous paragraph. It is
considered self-evident that there should be a good geographical
spread especially on a UK-wide basis. This is necessary to meet
the civic role of many universities and also ensure that local
requirements are satisfied. This is also a significant factor
in order to reduce the financial burden now faced by many students
when studying at university.
The optimal balance between teaching and research
provision in universities, giving particular consideration to
the desirably and financial viability of teaching-only departments
It is self-evident that the best teaching at
university level is research-led. This both enthuses and excites
students and optimises their academic achievements. Both academic
staff and students will be attracted to departments with a research
component and so it can be foreseen that the teaching-only department,
which does not fit within a university ethos, would be likely
to wither and die.
In terms of overall balance in activity between
R&D and teaching it is considered that the majority activity
should be research and an appropriate balance between the two
activities is suggested to be 60% research, 40% teaching. In the
case of Food Science and Technology the majority of the R&D
should be strategic as opposed to fundamental or applied.
The extent to which Government should intervene
It is essential that Government should intervene
at national level to ensure the continued provision of these strategically
important science subjects since these ultimately underpin the
development and economic performance and viability of the nation.
It is self-evident that almost every aspect of modern life derives
from science. Hence, science subjects must be maintained and promoted.
This policy, at regional and local levels, should
be the remit of the Funding Councils. As stated previously, this
is a UK-wide issue and not one solely for England and so to effectively
tackle this on a UK-wide basis the Funding Councils should be
IFST trusts that the Science and Technology
Committee will find these comments valuable and the Institute
would be pleased to present this evidence orally to the Committee
should that be required.