Food science research centre to close in July

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food standards agency Research Food safety

British food science research faces another serious blow unless a new home can be found for the Food Refrigeration and Process Engineering Research...

British food science research faces another serious blow unless a new home can be found for the Food Refrigeration and Process Engineering Research Centre (FRPERC) before the end of July.

Negotiations are underway to find a new home for the work carried out by FRPERC - currently located at the University of Bristol - and other organisations that might be interested in taking on the work are also being sought.

However, the chances of reaching agreement with organisations that expressed an early interest in taking on the work appear less likely now, given the present economic climate.

“It would a pity if the group divides because there is a lot of expertise in it and we do have some unique facilities here,” said Judith Evans, a senior research project manager within FRPERC.

Initially, there had been discussions about moving the centre to Campden-BRI​, although these fell through for a number of reasons; partly because of a perceived need to retain a direct connection within the university world.

FRPERC employs around nine specialist researchers and, by relinquishing the excess space it currently occupies, its running costs would be around £500,000 to £600,000 a year, said Evans. Around a third to one half of its income comes from industrially sponsored research, with the rest coming from projects financed in part by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Despite the adverse economic climate, FRPERC’s funding from industry has been increasing. “We have actually brought in more money to date than we ever have this year,” said Evans.

However, with both DEFRA and FSA budgets under severe financial pressure, some academics fear that they could take the opportunity to reduce research spending across the board further. Reducing government support for FRPERC, whose areas of activity are in energy efficiency and food safety along the cold chain, might seem perverse given that they are core priorities for both DEFRA and FSA.

In a letter to FRPERC partners last year, Bristol’s dean of engineering, professor Nick Lieven, first announced the decision to close the unit, citing the need to focus on more “core business within engineering”. Part of the problem is that Bristol does not run any undergraduate food science courses.

Lieven said: “Clearly the work of my colleagues at FRPERC is well regarded, however, there is not a natural home for it within the University of Bristol, which has led us to the decision for a planned closure of FRPERC on July 31 2009.”

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast