A new post-graduate Masters course in food design and innovation launching at Ulster University in September and aimed at food sector corporate professionals seeking to exploit business opportunities in the food and drink industry has unexpectedly struck a chord with chefs and independent restaurant owners.


Course Director Dr Lynsey Hollywood says the course was specifically developed to up-skill food industry professionals, entrepreneurs and artisan producers alike, but the new circumstances created by the pandemic have opened new possibilities for restaurateurs and small food producers keen to diversify.


“We have been contacted about the course by restaurant owners and chefs who are creating new opportunities by expanding  their take-away activities into products like meal boxes and developing their   potential to create high-end products such as baked goods, jams and home brews for retail sales,” says Dr Hollywood. “They are keen to hone up and broaden their skills by moving into a space traditionally filled by larger agri-food sector corporates”.


“Whereas food design and innovation has until now been the domain of corporate food service and retailers particularly in the prepared meals sector, Northern Ireland’s restaurant, artisanal and independent food business sector has had to adopt new survival techniques and broaden their offer, recognising the need to develop additional business skills.”


The two-year, part-time course allows people to continue their day-to-day professional life, and includes a variety of assessment methods used to provide the student with valuable feedback on their progress and to explore their ability to be creative using different tools and techniques including, professional conversations, a live design project, videography, information audits, sensory trials, presentations and reports”.


“What’s really exciting about this course is the opportunity to access our cutting-edge facilities like our new Consumer Insight Lab which hosts the only Virtual Reality convenience store on the island of Ireland to explore and understand consumer behaviour. Also, our Big Data Hub utilises market intelligence data to provide detailed shopper insight to help companies identify new product development opportunities. In addition, our well-established Food and Consumer Sensory Testing Suite, managed by Dr Amy Burns, has an award-winning reputation for its work in the area of sensory testing and product development”, says Dr Hollywood.

Teaching is delivered primarily through virtual and class-based lectures, with presentations from the Food and Drink Business Development Centre staff and industry professionals. The course starts 28th September and each module is delivered by block teaching (three days), typically from 9.30am – 5pm.

For more information Dr Lynsey Hollywood will be hosting a Webinar with Industry thought-leader Jack Hamilton (Chief Operating Officer, Mash Direct) discussing The Food Industry: Innovation in a Crisis on Tuesday 1st Sept at 7pm – 8pm. You can sign up for the webinar via Ulster University Postgraduate page: – under the MSc Food Design and Innovation programme.

For further information: