UC Davis researchers will soon be able to measure their progress and compare findings with colleagues across the Atlantic Ocean.
Overseas collaboration is expected to be a result of the recent Transatlantic Foods for Health Consortium – a partnership between UC Davis and the Centre for Advanced Food Studies in Denmark.
The objective is to investigate and develop healthier foods, while recognizing and understanding each other’s expertise, said M.R.C. Greenwood of the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute.
“We’re bringing people together to talk about what is happening in a new interdisciplinary space,” she said. “The Danes have always had a pretty advanced food studies area in terms of processing, products and functional foods.“
Lars Beer Nielsen of the Innovation Center Denmark, in Silicon Valley, said his institution’s primary goal is to connect Danish researchers with researchers throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento, and wherever there is mutual interest.
“We know that UC Davis is the world leading university in food studies and know Denmark is also a real stronghold,” he said.
Nielsen said his dream for the partnership would be that when a researcher from Davis is working on a specific topic, they would think of their Danish colleague as if they were just down the hall.
“[I hope] that you’d have such a firm grasp on research strength that you could approach these people as your close colleagues – even though they’re on the other side of the world,” he said.
While they’re still in the process of figuring out what a consortium really means, there are a few pilot projects being discussed. One is an exchange of a UC Davis and Danish graduate student for a project – but that is still very much in the planning stages.
“If I were a student, I’d get in this program right away,” Greenwood said. “We’re also hoping to develop an academic program between us in the coming years.”
Junior food science and technology major Robert Schwarz said it sounded like a great program, and that he hopes it will be established if he chooses to pursue graduate study.
“It’s always interesting and helpful to learn the practices of cultures other than our own, especially in such a diverse and important industry as food,” he said. “This could be the perfect opportunity to create the ultimate Danish.“
Nielsen said the Transatlantic Foods for Health Consortium is all-inclusive, allowing cooperation in any area of mutual interest.
“I don’t see why we can’t have all sorts of research projects – there is no value in limiting the possibilities for researchers,” he said. “As long as there are discoveries to be had it will be of interest to the Innovation Centre Denmark and the Foods for Health Institute to collaborate.“
Greenwood said that more plans will be discussed and clarified during a meeting in Denmark in fall 2010. She said the two parties plan on signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – a promise of future business.
“We are figuring out what kind of funds we can apply for – but whether its European Union or U.S. government funds, we’re looking to put together a program utilizing government resources,” she said.
Until that meeting, the relationship will blossom via monthly conference calls and exchange of joint proposals throughout the year. Greenwood said she anticipates visiting Denmark in spring, and Dr. Alan Friis, chair of the executive committee of the Centre for Advanced Food Studies will be visiting Davis in late February.
“The ultimate goal is to really make some very interesting and important scientific discoveries and implement or integrate those studies into our new foods for the future, and to really advance the field,” Greenwood said.
MIKE DORSEY can be reached at email@example.com.