"The programme could be a way of helping to identify high-fliers and fast-tracking their progress," said Libby Good, business development manager at the Reading University-based Food ATP
Food industry leaders
In a statement, director of the Food ATP Dr Richard Frazier put this objective in a broader context: "Our vision is to develop the skills of the food industry leaders of tomorrow, to drive forward innovation and to strengthen the competitiveness of the food industry."
The four ATPs were established by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) a year ago, with a budget of £12M. As well as the Food ATP, they include the AgriFood industry strategic training hub led by Nottingham University. The remaining two partnerships focus on pasture-based agriculture and livestock rearing.
The intention has been to respond to industry's needs at an advanced development level, while also providing key personnel with a broader perspective in areas including sustainability.
"We do everything from continual professional development to doctorates over five years," said Deborah Kendale, AgriFood ATP manager at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences. "We're not aiming to push people straight into masters."
Nottingham will host an event showcasing its own partnership's training schemes on September 11.
At the Food ATP, Good said the prerequisite of "a science degree or equivalent" could include non- graduates with relevant industry experience. But she emphasised that applications would be considered on an individual basis.
"A doctorate will consist of 12 modules plus a research project over three or four years," she said.
Food ATP modules starting this September will include Sustainable Supply Systems, Food Chain Security and Diet Quality & Health.
As Good explained, the idea of the ATPs was partly a response to the interlinked challenges of climate change, population growth and dwindling resources over the next two decades.