University College Birmingham has opened a £2m high-tech food hub equipped to train the next generation of professionals in the hospitality sector.
The 9,000 sq ft hub, called the Food Innovation Suite, features the latest food testing and diagnostic technology alongside state-of-the-art kitchen facilities. It will be used by students on existing food courses and chef programmes as well as those taking degrees that link the culinary arts with food science, nutrition and food manufacturing.
The new facilities and degree courses have been developed in response to demand from the hospitality sector for multiskilled graduates in the specialist fields of product development, food technology, menu development and nutrition.
The cost of the Food Innovation Suite, which is at UCB's main campus in Summer Row, has been met by the university, with assistance from Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership via the local growth fund.
Create It, one of the suite's two flagship kitchens, will be used to develop new concepts for the food manufacturing industry.
The room, with its distinctive blue granite worktops, houses four identical student cooking stations equipped with commercial-grade induction ranges, electric ovens and bains-marie. A larger lecturer workstation allows for class demonstrations with a multifunctional, high-spec Unox combination
oven that includes a prover for bread and baking.
Students will be encouraged to develop the commercial application of new products in Innovate It, another large flexible space that can be subdivided to provide a meeting room in which students can sketch out their ideas before bringing them to life in the adjoining kitchen.
Pauline Lovatt, assistant dean of UCB's College of Food, said: "The food industry has very creative chefs and very good scientists, but it needs professionals who can link the two areas. The new Food Innovation Suite at UCB will provide first-class opportunities to gain the skills and expertise
required to flourish in this growing area of the industry."
Ray Linforth, vice-chancellor and principal of UCB, added: "The facilities and our new food degree courses have been designed with industry in mind. They represent a major investment in the training of both young people and those already employed seeking professional development."