Top food brands help to produce ‘future food leaders’

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has teamed up with the University of Queensland to establish the Agents of Change PhD program, which aims to help develop food professionals and capitalise on export opportunities in Asia.

The new research and training centre, at The University of Queensland's St Lucia campus in Brisbane received a $2.695m grant from the Australian Research Council for the Agents of Change PhD program, with the wider food industry also throwing in $600,000.

“The program will bridge the public/private divide in the food industry and produce graduates with deep scientific capability, as well as knowledge in business, leadership and commercialisation,” said Melissa Fitzgerald, director of the federal government-funded centre.

“We aim to produce future food industry leaders,” she said.

Graduates of the program will work on improving global food security and will help Australia to take advantage of Asia’s growing demand for safe, healthy and high-quality foods and retail-ready ingredients.

The first cohort of 10 PhD students and three postdoctoral researchers will start at the training centre early in 2014.

Fitzgerald said the PhD-level training will lead to opportunities in industry rather than academia.

“Our PhD graduates will be business-ready leaders and innovators of tomorrow's food industry,” she said.

Campbell Arnotts, SunRice, Heinz, PepsiCo, Simplot, and Goodman Fielder are among the companies partnering with UQ and the AFGC to offer the PhD. Each of these food brands will work with one student, who will research an area of specific interest to that company.

“The student also will work in the company, carrying out parts of their research,” said AFGC’s chief executive, Geoffrey Annison.

Professor Fitzgerald said the program is aimed at students who may have studied food science at undergraduate level “and want more”.

“Currently there is nowhere in Australia where they can get the scientific quality of a PhD together with the ‘in-company' experience that is essential to a vocational career in industry,” she said.


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