Food is huge - which is why a new £10.5m Sheffield Hallam University research facility is seen as a mouthwatering addition to the industry.
The new food engineering centre on Attercliffe Road will educate a future workforce and drive innovations set to be snapped up by firms such as McCain, Princes, Warburtons and Sheffield’s own Maxons Sweets - all of whom sent senior staff to the grand opening.
In a speech, Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation savoured the moment and heaped praise on Prof Martin Howarth who led the project and is now centre director.
He said: “This is a place of research, learning, inspiration and joy. It’s important to remember the joy food brings us.
“My 300 members and the wider food community will come here and work with you and I promise to be an ambassador to ensure it is a success.
“Without Martin Howarth this wouldn’t have happened and industry wouldn’t be involved. He has been relentless in his pursuit of the right course of action.”
The federation was “unstinting” in its support for Hallam’s successful bids for £6.9m from the Office for Students, £2.9m from the EU and £600,000 from the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.
The National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering is stuffed with Willy Wonka-esque equipment and will employ 40 researchers and train 25 degree apprentices each year. Some 350 mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering undergraduates and 120 food science students will gain experience there.
Prof Howarth said it was the most exciting moment in his 35-year career.
“It’s been a great journey to be on with my team and deliver maximum impact to the university and industry.”
The centre stands opposite the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, also part of the university, which opens in January.
Vice chancellor Chris Husbands said: “This centre is a step in the story of regeneration that will make this area a centre for innovation.”