UNSW will establish a research and training centre aimed at bolstering the Australian food industry after receiving more than $2 million in funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The ARC Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Food Manufacture will investigate innovative ways to improve the quality, safety and nutrition of Australian food products, while training the next-generation of food scientists and engineers. 

The UNSW Centre will receive $2.1 million over three years as part of a $9.3 million federal government package to establish Industrial Transformation Training Centres. These are aimed at boosting the competitveness of key Australian industries.

The Centre, which will be operated by the Food Science and Technology group in the UNSW School of Chemical Engineering, will receive an additional $360,000 from six Australian and international industry partners.

“The aim is to develop healthier and safer foods in a more innovative and sustainable way by enhancing the interaction between food scientists, technologists  and engineers,” says Centre Director Jayashree Arcot, an Associate Professor in nutrition at UNSW.  

“Many of Australia’s major food companies  are multinationals, so their research and development budgets are spent overseas,” she says. “The objective of the Centre is to develop better links with industry and to establish a platform for technology transfer.” 

Some of the key projects include:

  • Investigating new processing technologies, and modifying existing ones, to improve the quality, taste, nutritional value and safety of food products.
  • Recovering starch and proteins from wastewater using membrane technology, and combining this ‘waste’ with polymers to develop new packaging products that can add value and reduce environmental waste. 
  • Using nanotechnology to develop biosensors and improve diagnostic capabilities for microorganisms,food allergens and chemical contaminants, thus enhancing food safety.

“From our experience, research in food innovation in Australia is scattered across several disconnected disciplines,” says Centre Co-Director, Dr Alice Lee from the School of Chemical Engineering.

“Our research group at UNSW integrates nutrition, food science and food technology with other important areas such as nanotechnology, polymer chemistry and membrane science. By uniting these disciplines we can develop innovative solutions,”  she says.

Partner organisations include the University of Newcastle, the University of Western Sydney,  CSIRO, and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

It is expected that the Centre will be able to train 10 PhD and several post-doctoral students, says Arcot, with some coming directly from UNSW’s undergraduate food science and technology program – the only 4-year professional program of its kind in Australia.

Media contact: Myles Gough, UNSW Media Office, 9385 1933