Queen Margaret University (QMU) has become the first higher education partner to join industry trade body Food and Drink Federation Scotland (FDFS).

The move is said to represent a “major step in realising the University’s ambitions as a centre of innovation and excellence in food development” and will boost its work in improving crucial sector skills to ensure graduates are trained for the industry of the future.

Host to the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation (SCFDI), QMU is said to be among the leaders in knowledge exchange linking food and health and the sustainability of the food chain, and in providing combined R&D and innovation space for the fast growing food sector.

The announcement also underlines QMU’s role in supporting the ambitions of the Food and Drink Industry Strategy Ambition 2030, which aims to grow the turnover of the industry to £30 billion and identifies three pillars of growth – people and skills, supply chain and innovation.

In addition, it will enhance the University’s ambition to support the UK and Scottish Governments’ policy priorities to address the challenges of tackling obesity and improving public health by working with industry to reformulate products and meet targets set for sugar and salt reduction.

FDFS chief executive, David Thomson, said: “As the voice of food and drink manufacturing, we know the huge importance of higher education in our industry, delivering innovation and skills for a sector which has a real ambition to grow.

“This partnership will enhance the reputation of the industry as a career destination of choice as well as further raising awareness of the excellent facilities at Queen Margaret University.”

Professor Tom Mercer, director of the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation at QMU, said: “Our membership of Food and Drink Federation Scotland sends a clear signal to our industry partners that higher education has a pivotal role to play in driving innovation and growth in food manufacturing and new product development.

“Our research and education programmes along with our existing lab facilities and plans for an innovation park adjacent to the campus will form a national hub for sector developments in manufacturing, new product development and sustainability.”