A leading British food manufacturer is harnessing the expertise of scientists at the University of Leicester to bring innovation to its production process to help boost yields and quality.

Fresh-Pak Chilled Foods Ltd has established a partnership with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester which will include academic consultancy, student projects and a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) worth in the region of £200,000 across the project duration. The partnership includes the recruitment of an Analytical Chemist to the Fresh-Pak team, mentored by an academic and with access to the specialist expertise and facilities available at the University. The academic input from the University of Leicester will be led by Professor Andy Abbot and Dr Alex Goddard from the Department of Chemistry with support from Professor Jeremy Levesley from the Department of Mathematics. Based in South Yorkshire, Fresh-Pak is a leading supplier of food products to the major supermarkets, food service providers and business-to-business and is also the UK’s largest producer of boiled eggs with more than five million cooked every week. Products made at the site include chilled sandwich fillers and accompaniments and the company’s success is built on a 20-year history of specialist food manufacturing experience.

One of Fresh-Pak’s strategic priorities for the next five years and beyond is to develop innovative new production processes and ways of working in order to increase productivity and quality. They sought the support of a university to help accelerate and grow a strong science base, focusing on the application of materials science and chemistry. The ultimate aim of the partnership is to firmly establish Fresh-Pak as a centre of excellence in food technology, that aims to revolutionise the way food is processed at Fresh-Pak, resulting in improved yields and quality performance.

Professor Abbott said: “The benefit to the University of collaborating with Fresh-Pak will be in demonstrating the impact of excellent academic research on a market sector, food processing. In addition, the new knowledge and best practice gained as result of the collaboration will feed back into the University in terms of teaching, new research themes and publication.” Keith Foreman, Managing Director of Fresh-Pak, said : “We are delighted to partner with the University of Leicester as innovation forms one of the major strategic elements of our company’s growth strategy.

“We already have great relationships with our customers and provide category leadership in the areas in which we operate and we see this as a further way of strengthening our position. “In today’s highly competitive landscape we firmly believe that companies who innovate and constantly challenge all aspects of their operation will succeed and the creation of a new Centre of Excellence will be instrumental in this.” The University’s academic team has extensive knowledge of material science and, in particular, the behaviour of biomaterials and in-depth knowledge of analytical techniques and of developing bespoke analytical solutions for novel systems. The team also has experience of process development, pilot scale testing and installation and testing of production scale processes.

Entries sought for chemistry innovation competition. Elsevier R&D Solutions has been named as the new lead sponsor for the 13th annual global ICIS Innovation Awards designed to recognise outstanding technological and business innovation in the chemical industry. Together, ICIS and the new sponsor are launching the Alpha Innovator of the Year Award, to recognise individual excellence in chemical industry innovation in the Awards for the first time.

Distribution company U.S. Chemicals continues as a category sponsor, supporting the Innovation with Best Benefit for Environment and Sustainability category. ExxonMobil Chemical also stays on board, sponsoring the category for Best Innovation by a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise. John Baker, ICIS Innovation Awards manager at ICIS, said: “The awards continue to grow and gain industry support and last year attracted a record level of entries. We once again look forward to highlighting the very best of innovation in the chemical industry.”

Christina Valimaki, senior director for chemical industry marketing at Elsevier R&D Solutions, and also a member of the ICIS Innovation Awards judging panel, said: “We’re in a difficult market with unyielding cost pressures, product proliferation and regulatory scrutiny. The ICIS Innovation Awards enable companies to celebrate their success in the vital activity of innovation and the increasingly important areas of sustainability and environmental performance.

There are four categories for companies to enter:

  • Best Product Innovation
  • Best Process Innovation
  • Best Innovation by a Small or
    Medium-sized Enterprise (SME)
    – sponsored by ExxonMobil Chemical
  • Innovation with Best Benefit for Environment and Sustainability – sponsored by U.S. Chemicals

Plus, the new individual Alpha Innovator of the Year Award – which will honour two industrial researchers for their outstanding contributions in two areas: New product development/process optimisation and Environment and sustainability. The ICIS Innovation Awards and the Alpha Innovator of the Year Award are open to entry from today, with a deadline for entries of 30 June 2016. The winners will be announced in October 2016. More information is available at www.icis.com/awards