A new national initiative to encourage closer collaboration between industry and academia in the food manufacturing sector is being launched next week (Wednesday, 15 November 2000), by the IEE, Europe's largest professional engineering society.

The 'Food Manufacturing Engineering Group', which has the support of industry, follows an approach to the IEE by MAFF (the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food). With an annual turnover of over £60 million, the food processing industry is the largest in the UK and in Europe.

The Group will provide a single forum for engineers working in all aspects of the food manufacturing industry and will encourage research groups and industry to work more closely together to develop technologies that meet the engineering requirements of the food industry. The Group will also play a key role in co-ordinating generic research developments as well as increasing access to funding and participation in European research schemes.

"It is vital that the input of consumers is actively sought in developing research programmes so the research can be focused specifically towards their needs", says Professor John Gray, the first Chairman of the group. "The support and interest we have received whilst setting up the Network confirms a strong need for increased co-ordination and support within the food manufacturing industry".

Engineering techniques are used increasingly throughout the whole food supply chain. These include robotics, sensor technology, IT, as well as computer modelling of processes and microbial growth. The rise in recorded incidences of food borne disease has also been an additional driving force towards automation of the industry.

The inaugural meeting of group is being held on 15 November 2000 at the IEE and will take the form of a brokerage event aimed to facilitate individual discussions between research groups and industry. The morning will feature a series of presentations looking at present trends and future technologies in food manufacturing, as well as UK and European funding and research and development issues.

The Network has been set up with the support of companies including Coca Cola, Guinness, Nestle UK, SmithKline Beecham, Unilever, ABB, AMTRI, Marks and Spencer and United Biscuits, research bodies such as EPSRC, BBSRC and MAFF and other engineering institutions.

Further information about the Food Manufacturing Engineering Group and the 'Engineering in Food Manufacturing: brokering the future' event can be found at http://www.fmenet.org


Note to Editors:
Journalists wishing to attend the first meeting of the Food Manufacturing Engineering Group are invited to register with the IEE Media Relations Office.

Media Enquiries:
Helen Pope
IEE Media Relations
Savoy Place
London WC2R 0BL

Tel: +44 (0)20 7344 8405
Fax: +44 (0)20 7379 7707
Email: hpope@iee.org.uk