Gavin Darby has been appointed chair of the Food Engineering Industrial Advisory Board (FEIAB) for the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering.

The Premier Foods chief executive was welcomed by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which said that Darby’s “wealth of industry and leadership experience” made him suited to the role.

The primary function of the board, made up of industry representatives and academia, will be to provide strategic input into the faculty business plan. This will include delivery of research and training provision with a focus on industry needs for innovative solutions and skills delivery in engineering.

The Centre will be based at Sheffield Hallam University, which earlier this year received a funding boost of £6.9m from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Additional support is being provided by a range of leading food and drink companies and equipment suppliers.

Gavin Darby, Chair of FEIAB, said:“High-quality engineering skills are vital to the future of the food industry, whether it be in supporting innovative new products and packaging or finding solutions to improve energy and waste efficiencies.

“With a looming shortage of qualified food engineers in the UK, it’s important we work together to develop the top qualified engineers needed to sustain a successful food and drink industry. The National Centre of Excellence is a first-class initiative that I’m proud to be a part of.”

Melanie Leech, director general at FDF, said:“We are delighted that Gavin Darby has accepted the position of Food Engineering Industrial Advisory Board chair. Gavin’s wealth of industry and leadership experience makes him ideally suited to driving forwards the Centre of Excellence project.”