Teesside University partners with Quorn to drive protein sustainability


RESEARCH at Teesside University is helping one of the world’s prominent producers of meat substitutes to drive the sustainability and quality of its protein.

The University has begun a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Quorn Foods, to test different methods of making mycoprotein, the main ingredient in all Quorn products, that would lead to an even more sustainable production methodology and enhancements to product quality.

Over the course of two years, Dr Nanda Ayu Puspita, who has a PhD in Biochemistry, will project manage the Knowledge Transfer Partnership from Quorn’s new pilot plant in Billingham.

She said: “I am delighted to be part of this exciting project, which allows me to share my knowledge and expertise in proteomics research and at the same time will help me to gain new experience in the industrial sector.”

The project team will have direct access to Teesside University’s £22.3 million National Horizons Centre, a UK centre of excellence for the biosciences based in Darlington.

They will utilise specialist equipment for examining and testing different proteins to ensure they meet pre-approved food regulations.

Quorn is a meat substitute produced at a site in Billingham by fermenting a nutritious microorganism in the fungus family called Fusarium venenatum.

This is, in turn, developed into more than 100 different Quorn products such as pieces, sausages and mince, which are sold primarily in Europe and the USA, and available in 18 countries.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership will use new methods of proteomics, mass spectrometry and chromatography to identify and quantify proteins during the fermentation process as well using biochemical data to identify targets for new strains with desirable characteristics.

Dr Gillian Taylor, Principal Lecturer and Operational Manager of the National Horizons Centre, will lead the academic team providing supervision for the Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Dr Taylor said: “Biosciences is a sector which has been forecast to grow considerably over the next few years, providing more jobs and investment in the region.

“The National Horizons Centre opened in December last year with a specific remit to develop the skills and knowledge that will be needed to provide the skills, knowledge and graduate talent to facilitate and enable this growth.

“Quorn is a fantastic example of a Tees Valley company which is at the forefront of the bioscience sector, using innovative techniques to develop nutritious and sustainable foodstuffs which are sold across the world.

“We are very pleased to be working with Quorn using our facilities and expertise to help them expand further and develop new food technologies.”

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS.

Innovate UK manages the Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including the Knowledge Transfer Network, Knowledge Bases and Businesses.

Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.

Dr Rob Johnson, Science Manager at Quorn Foods, commented on the partnership: “Quorn Foods is delighted to start this project with Teesside, which will provide evidence and technologies that will allow us to drive our products to new levels of sustainability and quality.”