The East Midlands Development Agency has joined forces with a clutch of further and higher education institutions to create a multimillion pound regional research and training campus specialising in food science and technology.
The agency, which has made the proposal its flagship initiative, said the campus is needed to underpin the vitally important food industry in the region. The sector employs nearly two million in the East Midlands and contributes 2.5 per cent of the region's GDP - about Pounds 1.2 billion. De Montfort University and the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside are among institutions playing a leading role.
Gary Cook, of the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside and a member of the project's steering panel, said the agency had just agreed to provide Pounds 2 million towards a Pounds 6.5 million science centre at the Lincoln campus. The campus will accommodate 5,000 students.
Mr Cook said: "The centre will play a key role in developing education and training services in food-related subjects such as food science and technology. Delivering management training will also be an important part of the responsibility of universities."
It is envisaged the campus would be partly virtual, offering distance learning and advice electronically, and partly physical, with facilities for firms to experience academic expertise face to face.
Mr Cook, director of Lincolnshire and Humberside's innovation centre, stressed the scheme was still at an embryonic stage, but added: "This initiative has the support of everyone at the university from the vice-chancellor down. We see it as very important for the region and we want to help the agency deliver the goods."
The initiative will require between Pounds 2 million and Pounds 5 million to start up. Mr Cook said project partners hope to secure the funds from a range of sources including the European Union, funding councils and the private sector.
Initially called the "University for Food", the scheme is undergoing a name change after the agency's university partners warned the use of the "university" title could fall foul of privy council rules. The agency is now considering calling it the "East Midlands Food Campus".