The Russian food industry is facing a number of challenges, including the production of home-made ferments. Currently, Russian enterprises have to import them from abroad. Producing similar ferments in Russia requires a lot of theoretical knowledge and skills in biochemistry, bioengineering, and genetic engineering. Russia has many laboratories fitted out with modern, high performance equipment. However, it lacks qualified specialists, which slows down the development of food biotechnologies.
“Unfortunately, classical university education does not always keep up with the latest developments in such dynamic areas like genetic engineering and biotechnologies. That is why the system of vocational education can become a key link between universities and enterprises, advanced areas of science, and efficient businesses,” said the head of the project, Vice Rector for Research and Innovations and the Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, Vasily Popov.
One of the largest agro-businesses in Russia, EFKO, which is actively involved in innovative projects, including biotechnological, is now also contributing to the solution of the problem. VSU scientists developed an advanced training programme in the biotechnologies and biochemistry used in the food industry. It targets EFKO’s biotechnology engineers, laboratory assistants, technicians, R&D specialists, and chief engineers. Specialists from other Russian universities and international research centres were also involved. The programme was carried out with the support of the Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programmes, RUSNANO.
“Our staff often needs retraining or advanced training. This is especially important for R&D departments, i.e. Biruch-NT Innovation Centre, because the ferment market is one of the most promising and dynamic markets in the world. Still, Russia has very few specialists in this field. In cooperation with VSU and RUSNANO we developed an advanced training programme in biochemistry and biotechnologies. It was a success, and 25 people have already completed it. We are satisfied with the results and are planning to use this programme in the future to train highly qualified specialists to work at the cutting edge of science,” said Deputy Research Director at Biruch-NT Innovation Centre (R&D Centre for the EFKO Group of Companies), Dmitry Cherenkov.
The programme is carried out at the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and consists of several modules. It includes lectures and workshops which will help the students to do the work needed by enterprises. The theory is taught by VSU scientists and invited specialists from All-Russia Research Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology and American universities, i.e. Cornell University and Yeshiva University. The academic programme was developed for the simultaneous training of 5 target groups: biotechnology engineers, chief engineers, laboratory assistants, technicians, and R&D specialists. This makes it possible to promptly advance the qualification of many specialists. Some lectures and materials are in electronic form which means that they can be studied remotely outside working hours.
The programme is planned to be conducted on an ongoing basis. It will be useful for new EFKO staff and specialists from other subdivisions involved in innovative projects.
“We are also planning to use the materials of the programme in a master’s programme at the Department of Molecular Biotechnologies which was created in cooperation with EFKO,” said the project curator, the Head of the VSU Department of Innovations and Enterprise Management, Alexey Kharin.