A new Food Research and Innovation Centre at RMIT’s Bundoora campus will boost Victoria’s contribution to the expanding food processing industry.
The centre was launched by the Minister for Industry and Employment, Wade Noonan.
Food processing in Victoria employs more than 69,000 people and earns more than $8.7 billion a year in exports.
Nationally, the sector constitutes 30 per cent of Australian manufacturing, employs more than 220,000 people and generates more than $55 billion in exports annually.
RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Martin Bean CBE, told the launch that in northern Melbourne alone there were about 400 food and beverage businesses with a turnover of more than $1 million, generating between them $2.6 billion a year.
“Most of these are small and medium enterprises that have the potential to double their business within a decade if they can overcome barriers to innovation, attract and retain a skilled workforce and create and implement more productive processes.
“That’s where RMIT comes in. We’re already a leader in food education and research.
“About 100 students graduate from our food science and technology program each year, with those numbers expected to grow to more than 150 by next year.
“Now we’ve established this Food Research and Innovation Centre to bring together education, research and industry, and to provide the necessary workforce for the food industry.”
Minister for Industry and Employment, Wade Noonan, said: “As the nation’s largest producer and exporter of food and fibre products, it’s important we support the industry to help grow local businesses and create new jobs for Victoria.
“This world-class education centre will give students hands-on experience using the latest technology, while helping businesses turn their ideas into reality.”
Professor Harsharn Gill, Director of the Food Research and Innovation Centre, said: “Students, researchers and food businesses have access to equipment and facilities that are unparalleled in this state.
“On just one floor, we can develop new food products, optimise processing protocols and test food for impurities, consistency, nutritional value, sensory perception and taste.”
Gill said the centre would serve as an incubator where RMIT experts could work with industry on small batch prototypes and then help businesses scale up production in an efficient way, helping them turn their ideas into innovative products and services.
RMIT scientists and students are already working with Sanitarium to make its Get Up and Go product even more attractive to the market.
The team has also collaborated with a new Victorian company, Nuchev, to create a formula for toddlers made from goats’ milk from a farm near Clunes.
The centre is working with other partners, including Tatura Milk Industries, Lion Dairy and Drinks Australia, C.H.R. Hansen, Proportional Foods, Murray Goulburn, Coca Cola, Simplot, Australian Meat Processors Corporation and Manildra Group.