6 September 2018IDM

New master’s degree in Food Sciences for Innovation and Authenticity at Free University of Bozen-Bolzano

The programme is a joint initiative with the universities of Cork, Parma, Munich and Udine. Partners also include top companies like Barilla, Loacker and Dr. Schär

Combining the traditional elements of the food industry with technological progress: this is the aim of the new Masters in Food Sciences for Innovation and Authenticity at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. The course stands out in particular for its close collaboration with leading food brands, giving aspiring industry professionals the chance to write their research theses while on placement at one of Italy’s top food companies, including the likes of Barilla, Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Gorgonzola or Loacker. Besides being practical and having an international focus thanks to partnerships with the University of Parma, University College Cork and the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the trilingual course will run in collaboration with the most important players in the local food sector: the South Tyrolean Trade Association and the South Tyrolean Farmers’ Union. The new master’s programme will welcome its first students in the 2018 winter semester.

In terms of sales, the food sector is the second largest industry in Italy after mechanical engineering. The story is very similar in the country’s northernmost province, South Tyrol. With an export volume of more than 1.5 billion euros, the agricultural and food sector accounts for almost a third of all South Tyrolean exports. This is why training professionals who can ensure that South Tyrolean companies are also competitive on a global stage is a high priority. The new master’s course aims to make a significant contribution to this, paying particular attention to food authenticity. “When it comes to food, every region has its own cultural heritage that is often unique in the world. We see this as a cultural, nutritional, and economic value that should be appreciated and upheld. Placing emphasis on authenticity means preserving a product’s unique characteristics,” explains Prof. Marco Gobbetti, an internationally renowned professor of food microbiology and the academic director of the new master’s degree course.

Thesis at Barilla, Forst, Loacker and co.

The objective of the new course is to train highly qualified professionals capable of working for the food industry in the fields of engineering, microbiology or chemistry or in the area of sustainable food production. After their first year of study, students will have the opportunity to choose from five areas of specialisation: applied engineering and genetics, food quality and management, nutrition sciences, food chemistry, and food packaging. The last two specialisations will be offered in collaboration with University College Cork in Ireland and the Technical University of Munich in Germany. Students will also be given the chance to spend up to two semesters at one of these European institutions. In Italy itself, the course will be run in cooperation with the universities of Parma and Udine, which already work closely with leading food companies and will use these contacts to extend the course’s network of business partners. Thanks to the partnership with the Food Division of the South Tyrolean Trade Association and the South Tyrolean Farmers’ Union as well as the cooperation with a number of leading food brands, students will also be able to write their research theses while on placement at one of the course’s partner companies. In addition to the Trade Association and Farmers’ Union, the partners of the new master’s programme are Assolatte, Barilla, the Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese, the Grana Padano Protection Consortium, the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium, the Prosciutto di San Daniele Consortium, the Consortium for the Protection of Montasio Cheese, the Speck Alto Adige Consortium, Despar, Dr. Schär, Forst, Loacker, Mila, Pan, Unione Parmense degli Industriali (Parma Industry Association), VOG Products and Zuegg.

Strategic cooperation between universities and companies

According to Prof. Paolo Lugli, Rector of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, the new Masters in Food Sciences for Innovation and Authenticity forms a significant part of the university’s efforts to provide tailored courses that meet students’ specific requirements. “Taking South Tyrol’s expertise in food production as a starting point, we have created a course that will be run in partnership with renowned international partners like the Technical University of Munich and University College Cork from the very beginning. In this day and age, it is important to train specialists who are able to tackle and overcome global challenges.” This opinion is shared by Thomas Brandstätter, President of the Food Division of the South Tyrolean Trade Association. “Our province’s firms are front runners in their respective sectors, which range from fruit processing and the meat and drink industries to the production of flour and dairy products. Research and development is crucial, especially since the success of companies in the food industry is heavily reliant on their ability to compete on a global scale. The Free University of Bozen-Bolzano is an ideal partner and is constantly intensifying its efforts to forge new business partnerships.” For years, the South Tyrolean Farmers’ Union has also been a staunch advocate for the establishment of food sciences as an area of research focus in South Tyrol, which is why Vice-Director Ulrich Höllrigl welcomes the launch of the master’s degree course as well. “Thanks to the origin and quality of our produce, the South Tyrolean agricultural industry ensures a high degree of food authenticity. To ensure we can continue to develop products, we need highly qualified specialists, including the future graduates of this degree programme.”