The £12M centre – the first of six to be opened in the UK dedicated to sustainable energy use – will focus on developing energy-efficient food manufacturing, distribution and retail systems, to support the government’s target of 80% CO2 emissions reduction by 2050.
Leading the research hub will be Professor Savvas Tassou, head of the School of Engineering and Design and expert in refrigeration and energy research. Tassou will co-ordinate teams from the University of Manchester, led by Professor Adisa Azapagic, and the University of Birmingham, led by Professor Fryer.
Tassou said: “There is a global imperative to dramatically reduce carbon emissions across all heavy-use industries. It’s critical to start addressing energy efficiency in food chain systems now.”
Food processing, transportation and storage
Topping the centre’s research agenda will be: cutting the carbon footprint of food processing, transportation and storage, supermarket packaging, shoppers’ buying habits and food choices. The centre will also support government and EU policy on unavoidable food waste and establish links with developing countries.
“This research is very topical. It is quite broad. We are dealing with several related issues,” said Tassou.
Azapagic added: “The Centre will contribute significantly to reducing energy use and environmental impacts from food production and consumption, thus helping to save resources and meet UK climate change targets.”
Dr Lucy Foster, from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), said centre would unite scientists and innovators.
Big challenges the food sector faces
“This new Centre is a boost to the food industry as it brings scientists and innovators together to tackle some of the big challenges the food sector faces; to ensure a competitive, resource efficient sector which can produce healthy food for the future and which also improves the environment,” said Foster, who is DEFRA food science lead and sustainable economy science coordinator.
Calum Murray, the Technology Strategy Board’s lead technologist for sustainable agriculture and food, said it was vitally important to improve energy use efficiency along “this critically important [food] supply chain”.
The centre was funded by £5.7M from Research Councils UK and Manufacturing the Future Programme with the remainder supplied by 33 manufacturers – including Premier Foods, Cargill, Iceland and PepsiCo – and three universities.