27th March 2009, 12:35pm
Marks & Spencer boss opens National Centre for Food Manufacturing
Sir Stuart Rose Sir Stuart Rose, Executive Chairman of Marks & Spencer, has officially opened the National Centre for Food Manufacturing at the University of Lincoln’s Holbeach campus.

The new £3.5 million Centre is a state-of-the-art food packaging and processing training factory for food sector employees and is located at the heart of the UK’s food manufacturing industry in southern Lincolnshire. The Centre will also support the University’s developing agenda for research and innovation in food packaging and automation for the sector.

Sir Stuart, second right, opens the centreSir Stuart was joined at the opening on Friday 27 March by a range of people who have been instrumental in the planning and realisation of this major development, including members of the Employers Steering Group, equipment manufacturers and organisations which have contributed funding for the building itself.

The Centre sees many of the region’s food companies working together to support the facility. It offers a range of training opportunities, from bespoke short courses to degree programmes for food sector employees at all levels.

Sir Stuart said: “Holbeach will ensure a steady flow of trained professionals into the food manufacturing industry, enabling companies like Marks & Spencer to benefit from continual innovation from our suppliers. We have strong links with Lincolnshire through long-standing relationships with manufacturers in the region and look forward to working with graduates of Holbeach in future years.”

Dean, Val Braybrooks, who oversees the Holbeach campus, said: “What is innovative about Holbeach is that the provision has been shaped and dictated by the employers whose businesses the campus supports. This partnership has created arguably the best resource of its kind in the UK. It will be a valuable asset in ensuring the sector’s future in a highly competitive global market.”

The facilitiesThe training factory provides a ‘real-life’ environment and top-of-the-range industry-standard equipment including: a £1.5 million fully-automated production line for ‘ready meals’; gas analysis equipment for modified atmosphere packing; packaging coding and dating equipment; a sauce depositor; ultra-violet technology; fork lift truck.

The project was funded by Lincolnshire County Council with support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Lincolnshire Enterprise, East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the University of Lincoln.

David Wallace, Director of Innovation at East Midlands Development Agency (emda) which supported the development of the Centre, said: "This new facility will be a great asset, not just to food manufacturing businesses in Lincolnshire, but also to businesses operating throughout the East Midlands. It also reflects our commitment to support innovation in the food sector, which we are doing through the region's Food and Drink iNet, led by a consortium that includes the University of Lincoln. Not only will the National Food Manufacturing Centre enable staff to receive top quality training, utilising state-of-the-art equipment, but it will also support research and innovation in the industry, helping to give businesses a competitive advantage."

The factory has been equipped by suppliers, including Ishida Europe, whose long-term commitment to providing the Centre with the latest equipment and automation has ensured the project’s success.

The Centre’s top quality facilities and industry-led courses have been acknowledged as being among the best in the UK by sponsors, the Process and Packaging Machinery Association (PPMA).

Chief Executive of the PPMA, Chris Buxton, said: "In the current climate the need for industry and academia to work together closely is all the more important. This new initiative epitomises all that is good about such collaboration in one industry leading facility. The PPMA is especially proud to be associated with it."
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