Flavours make up the largest sector of the food additives industry, representing 27 per cent of its value with annual sales over $6.77 billion, according to 2010 market research from Leatherhead Food International.
However leading European flavour companies are concerned at a dearth of trained flavour scientists as many of the researchers who were leaders in the field are now at retirement age, and changes in the structures of university and research institutes mean there are not enough new people coming in.
This, they fear, could affect their ability to innovate and see commercial success in the future.
The bursary programme was the brain-child of V. Krishnakumar, managing director of consultancy Giract, has obtained sponsorship from nine companies with business activities in or relating to flavours: DSM Food Specialities, Frutarom, Givaudan, IFF, Kerry Ingredients & Flavours, Kikkoman, Lesaffre International, Nestle and Unilever.
All nine companies have renewed their commitment for a second year, following an evaluation of the programme’s first year in March.
The consortium is offering six bursaries of €3000 each for first-year PhD students of flavour science, for expenses related to their research, be it attending a conference or purchasing materials or equipment, and one award for Best Final PhD Thesis of €5000.
The companies funding the scheme are not involved in selecting the recipients of the bursaries and the award. Rather, assessment of entries is made by Professor Andy Taylor of the University of Nottingham in the UK, against pre-agreed criteria.
Projects must be innovative and multi-disciplinary, combining flavour analysis with aspects of biology and psychology. They must also adhere to good experimental design and theoretical principles.
However they could be almost anywhere in the flavours field, and may not necessarily relate to pleasure.
The first, successful edition of the scheme attracted nine entries for the bursary scheme and three for the Best Thesis award.
Giract said the majority of applicants were from the UK, France and Germany – but it is hoped that even more candidates, representing a broader slate of EU member states, will put themselves forward for the academic year 2010/11.
It is also hoped that universities will heed the call from industry about the need for trained flavour researchers, and offer more courses and places.
Details on how to apply will be sent to European universities in the next few weeks, and published online at www.giract.com.