With the plant-based sector continuing to grow and expand, more skilled food technologists are needed. ProVeg ranked education levels of plant-based food technology among 65 European universities in order to encourage tertiary institutions to lead the way in innovation.
INNOVATION IN PLANT-BASED FOOD TECHNOLOGY
Worldwide, there has been a notable positive shift in consumer attitudes toward plant-based eating. In response, food producers and service providers have started to increase their production and are striving for innovation in order to meet the increasing demand in the growing plant-based sector. This global shift represents an opportunity for European universities to offer more possibilities for students to educate themselves in plant-based food technology and lead the way in terms of progress and innovation.
THE EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY RANKING
ProVeg ranked education levels on plant-based food technology among 65 European universities by comparing and contrasting their teaching forms. Several criteria were evaluated, such as lectures/guest lectures, courses, study programmes, and university department/faculty. The ranking also took into account research and private and public-sector collaborations.
Out of 65 universities, only seven scored more than 100 points in the ranking, while only two scored over 200 points. The absolute leader in the ranking is Wageningen University in the Netherlands, as it brings the educational institution closer to the food-production industry, which benefits the consumer market. The university gives its students a chance to work on unique research projects combining technology and innovation that contribute to breakthroughs in the food-tech field.
The University of Hohenheim takes second place for its unique Department of Plant-based Foods, housed within the Institute of Food Science and Biotechnology, which works on transferring knowledge to the food industry in order to enhance the development of innovative food technologies and products. The top five also include the University of Copenhagen, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Helsinki, all of which have distinctive ways of enabling their students to focus on plant-based food development.
The ranking then points out exciting key projects at the top ten universities. The Leg4Life Project of the University of Helsinki aims to increase the cultivation of legumes that flourish in Finnish conditions (peas, fava beans, lupins, and clover) and promote their broader use in food and feed. Another example is Wageningen University & Research, which is looking for ways to increase the availability, diversity, and acceptance of new and existing protein sources.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE EUROPEAN UNIVERSITIES RANKING?
The final results of the European University Ranking indicate that most universities should focus on offering students more possibilities to educate themselves in plant-based food technology. The universities can reap the benefits in the form of an increase in student applicants, allowing them to select higher-quality students. Since there is a shortage of plant-based food technologists and scientists in the labour market, the employment of highly-educated and skilled graduates is also likely to be high. The European University Ranking is thus the first step toward addressing this deficiency in the labour market and creating a sustainable food-supply chain for the growing global population. Ultimately, the initiative aims to provide the consumer market with innovative plant-based food and drinks and enrich the selection of plant-based food products.