THE Food Refrigeration and Process Engineering Research Centre (FRPERC), which for more than 40 years has produced research into energy efficiency and food safety in the cold chain, faces closure after losing its home at the University of Bristol.
Judith Evans, FRPERC senior research project manager
The FRPERC has until the end of July to find a new home after the Dean of the university, Nick Lieven, announced his decision to concentrate on core activities, in a letter sent last October.
In it, he said: "Clearly the work of my colleagues at FRPERC is well regarded, however, there is not a natural home for it within the University of Bristol, which has led us to the decision for planned closure of FRPERC on 31 July 2009."
Negotiations have been carried out with a number of organisations but as yet no home has been found.
Judith Evans, senior research project manager at FRPERC,
said: "We are obviously concerned and time is running on. We would have hoped to have got something in place by now."
The current economic climate will not have helped but a number of options have been pursued including talking to other universities and even the possibility of renting space at its current site.
The Centre started out on the Bristol site as the Meat Research Institute in 1967 with a programme of research into meat refrigeration and processing. Over the next 42 years, the Centre extended its programme to cover the refrigeration, thermal processing and handling of all foods under the auspices of FRPERC.
FRPERC employs nine researchers and costs around £500,000 to £600,000 a year to run. Around a third to a half of its income comes from industry with the rest coming from DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Much of the research is refrigeration-based and its programme of experimental and theoretical studies has, over the years, resulted in more than 900 publications, covering aspects of the chilling, freezing, thawing, tempering, storage, transport and retail display of food.
Academics from FRPERC recently invited the commercial refrigeration industry to hear the findings so far of almost three years of refrigeration research into where and how energy consumption can be reduced from refrigeration systems.
FRPERC staff from Bristol University were joined by three other universities to discuss their research in Birmingham on April 3. Energy savings in the cold chain, primary food cooling, cold storage, refrigerated transport and in retail and commercial refrigeration were covered as well as refrigerant leakage, maintenance and emerging refrigeration technologies.
This is the second of three presentations FRPERC staff are running to discuss the DEFRA-funded project, which is expected to be completed this June. The third presentation takes place on June 4 and focuses on the project's conclusions. It is hosted at Campden-BRI in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. You can view the seminar programme and attend by emailing Judith Evans