By Professor Philip Calder
Obesity is a major challenge in our society, but so is undernutrition and many people have significant nutrient gaps in their diet. These can be addressed by helping people to make healthier dietary choices including through the provision of better quality food and beverages that are affordable and available.
Today the University will announce that it has been awarded funding from the BBSRC of almost £1.6 million to lead one of six new Diet and Health Innovation Hubs. The Southampton Hub is lead by myself, Jon Swann, Caroline Childs and Keith Godfrey and is a partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Leeds and Reading and the Quadram Institute Biosciences in Norwich.
The aim of our Hub is to link academic researchers with industry, to develop and test novel strategies for enhancing the quality of food and beverages in order to improve nutrition across the life course. Overall, BBSRC along with the MRC, Innovate UK and DEFRA are sharing almost £15 million across the six Innovation Hubs in this first phase of funding. The other five Hubs are led by the Universities of Bristol, Reading and Surrey, Imperial College and the Quadram Institute Biosciences. Each Hub has a different focus, but the overall aim of the programme is to bring together leaders from academia, industry and other sectors to improve food and beverages to deliver more healthy options to consumers. The aim is to create sustained and effective working collaborations between academia and industry that will add value to human nutrition research; to generate a stronger evidence base for healthful dietary patterns, foods and beverages, and nutrients; and to provide enhanced possibilities for industry development of new foods and beverages creating marketing opportunities and opportunity for wealth creation whilst also supporting improvements in public health.
The Southampton-led hub will focus on research across the life course emphasising the role of good nutrition in promoting early life development, in sustaining function and resilience through adolescence and adulthood, and in promoting healthy ageing. This award is a wonderful opportunity for us here in the Faculty to work with our partner institutions and with industry to find solutions that help people improve their health through what they eat and drink. We also want to make sure that we foster the next generation of researchers and so parts of our award will be used specifically to support early-career researchers through targeted funding and mobility opportunities.