British Council Higher Education Alliances project between University of East Anglia and Universidad de las Americas (UDLAP, Mexico)

UEA and UDLAP successfully completed a collaborative project funded by the British Council. The workshop took place in Puebla, Mexico where UDLAP and Volkswagen has its Latin America headquarters. The activity took place during three days between 4th to 6th November and three NBS staff members (Dr Alfonso Avila-Merino, James Cornford and Professor Andrew Fearne) delivered the content of the transnational educational project. On the UDLAP side, Dr Nelly Ramirez Corona, Maria Teresa Jimenez Munguía and Aurelio Lopez Malo Vigil were the key organisers of the event. It was also very important the contribution of some Mexican companies and government officials in the workshop, among them were:

BIMBO-Global Technological Development, Centro de Análisis de Ciclo de Vida y Diseño Sustentable-CADIS, Coca-Cola de México-Innovation Northern Hub, Instituto Nacional de Economía Social (INAES): Coordinación General de Fomento y Desarrollo Empresarial, and SABORMEX

The outcomes of this workshop are presented below:

Both UDLAP and UEA have broaden academic relations with faculty members in the departments of Chemical, Food and Environmental Engineering, Marketing, International Business Management, Business Management. Both institutions will thrive to carry out international research projects, which may involve the participation of undergraduate and/or postgraduate students. It has been filled of gap to gain a deeper understanding regarding entrepreneurial skills and their applications within the food-processing sector. Participating students (110), teachers (5) and researchers (25) and academic teaching staff (15) have made aware and gained entrepreneurial skills with hands-on exercises.

Participants have acquired knowledge of how innovative product development and creative entrepreneurship in the UK food-processing sector can provide lessons to participants in the Workshop. It has also served the purpose for UEA staff to become more aware of the technological, entrepreneurial and the socio-economic conditions surrounding the food-processing sector in Mexico. The latter will give pace to further interactions between academic staff and students between UDLAP and UEA.

Through the acquisition of some entrepreneurial and interpersonal skills and with knowledge of innovative new product development practices. Participating students become a better future workforce in the Mexican food-processing industry, as they are more aware and acquired entrepreneurial skills to be used in their work and/or daily activities. For instance, 100 Mexican university and 10 high school students developed and improved their English language skills. Furthermore, knowledge and best practices exchange between UEA and stakeholders in Mexico within the food processing industry have been exchanged for the benefit of all participants in the event. In addition, awareness has been raised and increased regarding the key importance of the food-processing sector not only in central Mexico but overall in all agriculture intensive states within the country. In the workshop, participants have become aware to involve underrepresented groups of society in this sector to create a more positive impact in society.

Moreover, 110 students, 40 academic staff acquired key knowledge and interpersonal/employability skills regarding the creation of start-up companies that tackle challenges in the food manufacturing and producing sectors. Above number of participants, also develop and have hands on exercises regarding the acquisition of innovation skills required during the conception of new products and/or new technology for food processing: disruptive design and systems thinking. In addition, participants have been aware of Mexican the effect of whether new products and new technology are contributing to environmental pollution and degradation. Both participants and presenting academic staff have the change to discuss with representatives of local/national and international industry and government offices about the regional needs on food processing innovation and have found key issues to tackle such socio-economic and ethical challenges. Furthermore, participants have learn have to apply and use contemporary tools for acquiring data that describe the conditions and circumstances under which new technologies can be implemented for food processing. Lastly, students, researchers and industrial/policy-making stakeholders have learned creative approaches to develop innovative food processing products and processes.

This event has been extremely successful that both UEA and UDLAP are examining the possibility to continue developing this project in Mexico and apply for British Council funding for a second stage. This stage is more ambitious and with a greater scope and so, it will be necessary to expand the team collaborating in both institutions as well as the level of funding required completing the task.

Both James Cornford and Andrew Fearne were for the first time in Mexico (at least in Puebla and Mexico City) and they have enjoyed the experience of working with colleagues in Mexico.

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