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Industry leaders launch new energy-efficient food research centre

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Leading scientists and government officials will be speaking at the launch of the new National Centre for Sustainable Energy Use in Food Chains, at Brunel University, London, on September 5.

The Centre, one of six in the UK, will establish a cross-disciplinary hub of engineers, scientists and industry experts to develop energy-efficient food manufacturing, distribution and retail systems to support the Government’s target of 80% CO2 emissions reduction by 2050.

The Centre, led by Professor Savvas Tassou, Head of the School of Engineering and Design and a well-known expert in refrigeration and energy research, is a partnership with teams from the University of Manchester, led by Professor Adisa Azapagic, and the University of Birmingham, led by Professor Fryer, who will be speaking at the launch.

The total cost of the centre is £12 million with £5.7 million in funding from Research Councils UK and the Manufacturing the Future Programme and the remainder coming from its 33 UK industry supporters and the three universities.

Professor 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.”

Professor 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.”

In addition to researching the physical reduction in the carbon footprint of food processing, transportation and storage, the project will assess supermarket packaging, people’s buying habits and food choices, and Government and EU policy on unavoidable food waste, as well as establishing links with developing countries.

A representative from Sainsbury’s, which is working with academia and partners to reduce its operational carbon emissions by 30% absolute by 2020, will be speaking at the event. Other speakers include Dr Jason Green, Head of Research Councils UK Energy Programme, Dr Lucy Foster, Food Science Lead and Sustainable Economy Science Coordinator at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and Calum Murray, the Technology Strategy Board’s Lead Technologist for Sustainable Agriculture and Food.

Dr Foster said: “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.”

Calum Murray added: “We applaud all efforts to improve energy use efficiency along this critically important supply chain.”

A panel discussion and question and answer session will be chaired by Professor Lillford, Steering Committee Chair, Centre for Sustainable Energy Use in Food Chains.