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Food and drink is a £5 billion industry in Northern Ireland and is the region’s largest manufacturer. It is deemed a priority sector by government and a major future economic driver.

Safeguarding the agri-food sector against challenges such as Brexit, and supporting opportunities for economic growth and innovation is critical, as noted in the Department for the Economy’s Rebuilding a Stronger Economy paper.

The most recent strategic plan for the food industry Going for Growth – Investing in Success emphasised a programme of measures to ensure higher levels of market-led innovation, sales growth outside Northern Ireland, especially to new markets in the USA, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and a significant improvement in skills.

Crucially, skills development was positioned as a key requirement across the wider food and drink supply chain.

Given the challenges surrounding the availability of managerial and commercial skills, Ulster University Business School is helping industry address skills shortfalls across all levels of the local food and drink sector, from food producer to food retailer, through the development of a postgraduate qualification.

The MSc Food Design and Innovation programme will provide learners with the key skills and commercial awareness demanded by the food industry at managerial level. It will equip both people wanting to enter the industry, and those working within the sector, with the core business, marketing and innovation skills needed for commercial success - helping future leaders respond to significant opportunities and challenges faced by the industry.

Students will develop transferable business-focused skills across core commercial areas, such as food marketing, consumer behaviour, new media and new product development.

This focus will allow students, on completion of the course, to pursue careers in functional management positions with food producers and across a range of retail management opportunities.

Commencing in September 2022, teaching for the new course will be delivered on Ulster University’s Belfast campus, with students having the flexibility of studying part time over two years.

The development of Northern Ireland’s food and drink sector is a key strategic aim for UUBS and over the last number of years this has been demonstrated through multi-million pound investments in state-of-the-art facilities.

The Food and Drink Business Development Centre, a centre of excellence, was established to provide sector-specific support to Northern Ireland’s local food and drink industry in research and business education. Located on the university’s Belfast campus, the centre provides a unique range of support tools and expertise in key areas such a marketing and consumer behaviour, innovation management, supply chain management and food policy and sustainability to help businesses innovate and develop new product concepts.The centre also contains a Consumer Insight Lab, a virtual reality retail store that allows firms to trial new products, packaging and category management, with shoppers recruited from relevant market segments.

Moreover, The Food and Consumer Testing Suite (FACTS) at Ulster University’s Coleraine campus helps businesses create, develop, refine and improve food and drink products through development kitchens, sensory testing booths, consumer research facilities and a nutritional analysis laboratory. Through this suite, Ulster has partnered with leading experts from McDonalds, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and many local SME food firms to support product innovation and new product development in the region.

To find out more about the Food Design and Innovation MSc or if you would like to discuss our range of food and drink knowledge solutions contact