The group will focus on helping universities to provide the high-quality graduates and research needed to help the UK succeed in the highly-competitive food industry.
King said: “The agri-food sector is one of the most important industries in the UK which is why it is important to plan for the future now.”
It was vital to continue to attract and develop young talent and new technologies, he added. “This will ensure we continue to provide quality food produced to the high standards that customers rightly expect. I am delighted to co-chair this task force which will help address this challenge.”
The second co-chair of the group – to be known as the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) Food Economy Task Force – will be professor Quintin McKellar, vice-chancellor, University of Hertfordshire.
Food Economy Taskforce
McKellar said profitable and sustainable agriculture and food industries must be resilient to extremes of weather and other disrupting events. “These industries require innovative graduates and ground breaking research to remain competitive and responsive,” said McKellar. “This initiative will support that agenda.”
Experts from across industry, politics and academia will be invited to contribute to the group.
Dr David Docherty, NCUB ceo, pledged that the task force will make a major contribution to economic development in the food industry. “Industry and higher education must unite to tackle the challenges of creating and sustaining a world-leading food sector,” he said.
George Freeman MP, life science adviser to the government and chair of the all party group for science and technology in agriculture, said the UK’s world leading food industry and globally renowned science research base have a unique opportunity to work together, with government help, to reach new emerging markets.
“I welcome the establishment of this task force in response to the government's new Agri-Tech Strategy and the work it will do to ensure the UK's expertise in the food sector remains revolutionary,” said Freeman.
Melanie Leech, director general at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) welcomed the new taskforce. "It has a strong platform on which to build including FDF’s work with Sheffield Hallam University and the National Skills Academy for food and drink to develop the MEng Food Engineering degree and a National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering," she said.
"We look forward to hearing more details about the work of the taskforce, and how it will engage with industry bodies and other collaborative work streams already in place.”
Meanwhile, last week Sainsbury launched a graduate scheme dedicated to British agriculture, which added to the 80 graduate placements offered in the past five years.