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Masters of future innovation: developing the next generation of talent in the food system

If we are really serious about transforming the food system, we need to make sure we develop the right talent with the right skills who are able to drive this forward. EIT Food’s Master in Food Systems will form a critical role in helping to develop the innovators of tomorrow.

30 Sep 2019

How can we develop the next generation of talent in the food system?

One of the ways EIT Food is doing this is through the Education functional area, which supports a very wide selection of education activities. One of these activities is the new Master in Food Systems, which is an integrated graduate degree programme organised by academic institutions and industrial partners from across the EIT Food pan-European partner network, aiming to develop a new type of professional for the sector.

Maarten van der Kamp, EIT Food Director of Education, explains: “We are really interested in training masters-level students who are experts in food systems, who also have entrepreneurial and innovation skills, as well as the ability to work across borders, within different cultures and within complex systems.

Students may specialise in a specific part of the food value chain such as primary production or packaging, but we are really focusing on producing graduates who have knowledge of the food system in its entirety. To change the food system, you need to be able to take a holistic view – everything is interconnected. We think this programme will enable us to drive future innovation.”

With hundreds of signups on our application portal, competing for 90 spots across six universities, the huge interest in this new way of doing things is evident. The first intake of students will start this autumn 2019, and next year’s intake is set to be even bigger, with the number of universities involved increasing from six to eight.

The two-year programme starts at one of six ‘home’ universities, and then students move on their chosen learning pathway, or route, to a further two universities throughout the course of the programme. These universities are spread across Europe, and include Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Reading in the UK, University of Hohenheim in Germany, University of Turin in Italy, and University of Warsaw in Poland.

What does the Master in Food Systems involve?

The programme enables students to come up with food system solutions together

A unique aspect of this programme is that students not only get to know three cities and universities throughout their study, but also three different academic perspectives on the food system. Each university formulates a specific ‘track’ - a package of modules covering their specific area of expertise. That way, graduates will profit from the combined know-how of three European institutions, ensuring in-depth academic competencies in relation to otherwise separate dimensions of the food sector, such as personalised nutrition, food safety, or sustainable food processing.

During the first semester at their designated ‘home’ university, the students study an overarching module providing an introduction to food systems. In addition to this, they will study key technical modules, which fit into the track, such as agrifood science, functional food compounds or food safety. Students move to another university in a different country for the second semester, where they take further technical modules. This is followed by a summer school, which is attended by all students. In the third semester they move again to one of the other universities where they will have the opportunity to work on emerging technology business cases. They return to their original, home university in the fourth semester, where they will complete their thesis, and they will then be awarded their degree.

Luca Cocolin, professor at the University of Turin & Chair of the consortium explains: “This is a completely different, new type of programme. It’s pan-European, meaning there is a lot of movement of the students themselves, across different academic organisations, and this enables them to develop a lot of international, intercultural skills. At the same time there is a lot of entrepreneurial and innovation learning embedded in the Masters programme, which is also unique. We see a lot of programmes in food technology, but not any which combine it with entrepreneurship and innovation, and with this pan-European mobility component.

Importantly, students will have access to the community on our new Food HIVE network, which is an online community which will help them to interact across locations, share knowledge and ideas, and essentially keep in touch with each other.”

Why apply for this programme?

For the Autumn 2019 intake, at each of the six universities involved, three learning pathways are offered, giving a total of 18 different specialised programmes available in one of three specialisms: Technical/Production, Business/Management, or Consumer/Nutrition. Each pathway includes specific content within its included technical modules, in addition to more general, overarching modules which all students benefit from.

Cooperation and mentoring by industrial partners means the programme is designed to foster both entrepreneurial spirit and practical skills – resulting in professional knowledge and experience which will be highly sought after in the food sector.

With regards to accreditation, the Master in Food Systems will work in a similar way to the pan-European Erasmus education programmes. Students will get a degree from the ‘home’ university that they start from, and all the credits that they acquire at the other universities are transferred directly back to their home university.

Students will get a pan-European degree as part of the Master in Food Systems

Thinking of applying? Desi Vanrintel, Programme Manager for Education, has this to say: “This programme is designed for all students that really want to change the whole food system. If this is you, then you should apply, because you are the future. You will get all the skills and confidence you need from this unique programme.”

The opportunity to have a real-world impact through the knowledge gained from this programme is already proving extremely popular. So, for those interested in using postgraduate study to develop their career and transform the food system, the advice is simple - apply early!

Applications for the Autumn 2020 intake will be open early in the same year. Please see the Master in Food Systems website for up-to-date information about applying, including full information on requirements and fee structure.

About the author: Dr Lucy Wallace is a freelance writer with a background in research communications and an interest in novel engagement methods with diverse audiences.

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