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Minister Coughlan Launches €1.1 Million Initiative on Post Graduate Education in the Agri-Food Sector

Programme to equip food researchers with industry-related skills

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today launched a new initiative in postgraduate education in the agri-food sector. The Food Graduate Development Programme, (www.foodpostgrad.ie) has been allocated funding of €1.1million for a five-year period by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under the Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM).

Pioneered jointly by Teagasc, University College, Dublin (UCD) and University College, Cork (UCC), the Food Graduate Development Programme will provide skills training to postgraduate students and research staff in Universities and Research institutions in Ireland engaged in FIRM food research projects. The project is being co-ordinated by Professor Michael Gibney, Professor of Food and Health at UCD and the Director of Training is Dr Alan Kelly, Dean of Graduate Studies at UCC.

Speaking at the launch Minister Coughlan referred to the competitive challenges facing the food sector and the need to have a skilled workforce in place to drive the industry forward. "The aim of my Department, in funding the Programme, is to address the needs of the food industry by ensuring that postgraduate students and research staff engaged in food research projects gain an understanding of industry expectations and skills required for duties requiring rapid decisions on problem solving in an industrial environment. This will complement the research skills acquired in the course of their research projects."

Professor Mike Gibney, Professor of Food and Health at UCD, explained that the overall objective of the Programme is to improve skills training through the creation of a modularised series of graduate training programmes. Programme modules will have a strong emphasis on the skills required of leaders in the agri-food sector, food industry and other research institutions nationally and internationally.

Dr Alan Kelly, Dean of Graduate Studies at UCC and Director of Training of the Programme, highlighted the changing national context of postgraduate education and continuing professional development, where inter-institutional collaboration delivering high-level transferable skills allowing graduates to make the maximum impact in their careers in the knowledge economy. Dr Kelly described the Food programme as a pioneering model for how such programmes may develop in the future.

Note for Editors

FIRM is funded under the National Development Plan 2007-2013. FIRM finances public good research by qualified research institutions. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis and projects involving collaboration between institutions are encouraged in order to build up centres of excellence. The research results are disseminated through the RELAY project to food companies and institutions throughout Ireland. (www.relayresearch.ie).

Date Released: 04 March 2008