Research Capabilities

Sign up to our mailing listThe University of Newcastle is ranked in the top 10 Universities in Australia for our research and is the most research-intensive regional university in the country. In 2015, the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) placed the University of Newcastle 8th for research and found 90% of our research to be world standard or above.

University of Newcastle researchers contributed to our 2015 ERA rating of 5, ('well above world standard'), in the following fields of research:

  • Plant Biology
  • Biochemistry and Cell Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience

Our researchers have established relationships with the food and beverage industry in our region, nationally and internationally. Located at Ourimbah and Newcastle, our researchers are based within NSW's largest food manufacturing region (Central Coast, Hunter and Western Sydney).

Key capabilities

The University of Newcastle also runs a number of undergraduate degree programs at both our Ourimbah and Callaghan campuses that directly relate to the Food Innovation Cluster and produce industry ready graduates.

Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre (ITTC) for Food and Beverage Supply Chain Optimisation

The ARC Training Centre for Food and Beverage Supply Chain Optimisation is training the next generation of multi-disciplinary researchers capable of designing, building, and managing safe, sustainable, and cost effective food supply chains which are vital for growing Australia's food industry and for increasing Australia's food exports.

The ARC Training Centre for Food & Beverage Supply Chain Optimisation brings together a diverse set of research organisations and industrial partners to ensure that the research carried out and training provided are both at the cutting edge and industrially relevant.

Projects at the ITTC cover topics including Post-harvest Science and Technology, Sustainable Food Supply Chains and Cold Food Supply Chains.

For more information regarding the ARC ITTC for Food and Beverage Supply Chain Optimisation, please visit their website.

Yong-Ling Ruan
Australia-China Research Centre for Crop Improvement

The Australia-China Research Centre for Crop Improvement (ACRCCI), headquartered at the University of Newcastle, focuses on discovering key genes and biological processes controlling plant development and stress tolerance for innovative applications to improve food security and agricultural sustainability by bringing together research teams of international excellence in plant biology and breeding.

The Centre Director is Associate Professor Yong-Ling Ruan from The University of Newcastle and also includes leading researchers from the following Institutions:

  • Australian National University
  • CSIRO Plant Industry
  • Murdoch University
  • University of Western Australia
  • University of Adelaide
  • University of Tasmania
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences; Institute of Plant Physiology & Ecology
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences; Institute of Botany
  • Huazhong Agricultural University
  • Nanjing Agricultural University
  • Peking University
  • Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Science
  • Zhejiang Forestry & Agricultural University
  • Zhejiang University

Further information on the research undertaken by this Centre and the people involved is available from the ACRCCI web page.


Plant Science Research Group

Professor Chris GrofThe University of Newcastle Plant Science Research Group is recognised nationally and internationally for its contributions to understanding regulation of nutrient transport and metabolism in higher plants.

In the 2010 and 2012 ERA assessment rounds the Plant Science Research Group achieved the top rating of '5'. Our linkage with agronomists and plant geneticists opens up exciting opportunities of transferring our findings into targeted breeding programs.

For example, a research program is being developed in conjunction with Meat and Livestock Australia to improve the digestibility and hence nutritive value of the major constituent of northern Australian pastures, Pennisetum ciliare (buffel grass). A new approach is being pursued in our laboratories to utilise Fourier Transformed Infra-Red (FTIR) Spectroscopy in conjunction with multivariate analysis as an innovative rapid screening tool for the detailed dissection of cell wall composition. This strategy will accelerate the identification of key genetic contributors to digestibility of plant cell walls and hence superior nutritive quality in buffel grass. Maximising the digestibility of plant cell walls is fundamental to increasing overall beef production, an industry worth $15 billion a year.

The research group leader is Professor Chris Grof and further information on the research undertaken by this group is available from the Plant Science Research Group web page.


Clinical Nutrition Research Centre

Professor Peter HoweLaunched in October 2012 by the Inaugural Director, Professor Peter Howe, the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre is a novel multi-institutional research collaboration that integrates internationally recognised expertise in nutrition and human health into new research partnerships aimed at:

  • Expanding knowledge of physiological functions of bioactive nutrients and functional foods;
  • Evaluating human health benefits of bioactive nutrients;
  • Obtaining evidence to substantiate health claims for functional foods and nutraceuticals;
  • Fostering a national framework of collaboration in nutraceutical research;
  • Promoting translation of nutraceutical research into community practice.

The Clinical Nutrition Research Centre seeks to capitalise on its collective strengths in nutrition research (acknowledged by ERA rankings), extensive food industry partnerships  and outstanding track records in research translation of its collaborators at the University of Newcastle, University of South Australia and Swinburne University of Technology. In the 2012 ERA assessment round the University of Newcastle achieved the top rating of '5' in Nutrition and Dietetics with researchers in Clinical Nutrition Research Centre and PRC PAN the main contributors.

Further information regarding the Centre's work is available on the CNRC web page.


Nutrition, Food and Health Research Group

FoodBased at the University of Newcastle's Ourimbah campus, the scope of research for the Nutrition, Food and Health Research Group encompasses both novel and traditional areas of food, nutrition and biologically active natural products.

The group is led by Associate Professor Mark Lucock and works as a cohesive and focused research entity composed of productive researchers who have a broad range of interests including:

  • Molecular Nutrition/Nutritional Genetics
  • Cancer Biology
  • Functional Foods/Food Chemistry
  • Food Processing
  • Postharvest Technology
  • Herbal Therapies/Xenobiotics

The core members of this group also include conjoint staff from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, also based on the Ourimbah campus at the Central Coast Primary Industries Centre. The Group sits within the Faculty of Science and IT research portfolio.

The Nutrition, Food and Health research group is involved in externally funded collaborative projects with a number of stakeholders such as:

  • Northern Sydney Central Coast Health (NSCCH);
  • NSW Department of Primary Industries;
  • Sanitarium Health Food Company;
  • Australian Research Council (ARC);
  • Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC);
  • Appledale;
  • Kunitaro Tea & Coffee Company;
  • Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI);
  • Horticulture Australia and more.

More information regarding the work of the group can be found on the Nutrition, Food and Health Group web page.


Market Intelligence and Australia-China Business Relationships

Dr Anton Kriz is a Senior Lecturer for the Newcastle Business School and has an extensive background in business, industry, government and academia. Dr Kriz has over 20 years research experience in Asia working with key markets like Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. He is a specialist in Chinese business, innovation management and marketing research with research interests focussed on the food related Chinese market and innovation intelligence and how Australia can capitalise on an expected rapid rise in food opportunities in China.

Dr Kriz has been the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship and has recently received a China Fellowship (Zhejiang University) from the China Scholarship Council. Anton is also Chairing a major project to transform the innovative capacity of the Central Coast of New South Wales. He works closely with major regional bodies like HunterNet and is focused on raising the capacity of enterprises, clusters and regions through sharing his extensive and deep knowledge of innovation management theory and practice.

To find out more about Dr Kriz's extensive research experience, please visit his researcher profile.


Food Sociology

Professor John GermovPro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Education and Arts at the University of Newcastle, Professor John Germov has research interests that span the social determinants of food consumption and production, the historical sociology of wine consumption, public health nutrition policy, weight control and dieting, body image, the sociology of obesity and the social determinants of alcohol and harm minimisation.

Professor Germov has published 17 books, including A Sociology of Food and Nutrition: The Social Appetite (2008) and Second Opinion: An Introduction to Health Sociology (2009). Professor Germov is also a member of the Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing which focuses on the individual and social factors that affect the health and well-being of men and women as they age, and the ways in which communities and organisations respond to an ageing population.

Further information on Professor Germov's work can be found by visiting his researcher profile.


Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition (PRC PAN)

The Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition (PRC PAN) offers unique interdisciplinary expertise and leadership by galvanising education and public health researchers, biochemists, exercise physiologists, food scientists, Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs), nutritionists and behavioural scientists to combat the obesity epidemic and related chronic disease burden to improve the quality of life of Australians.

Professor Manohar GargThe primary aim of the PRC is to achieve high quality research, training, and knowledge translation in the development and testing of efficacious/effective, theory-driven, multi-level, population-based physical activity and nutrition-related interventions and natural experiments that can ultimately be used and sustained in practice. In the 2012 ERA the PRC PAC also received the top rating of '5' in Human Movement and Sport Science as well as Nutrition and Dietetics demonstrating that the research in this Centre is 'well above world standards'.

The research conducted by researchers in the Experimental & Clinical Nutrition theme of the PRC PAN is led by Professor Manohar Garg and examines the role of nutraceuticals, functional foods and dietary supplements on indicators of health and disease status including blood lipid levels, glycemic control, blood pressure, blood clotting (aggregation), inflammation and quality of life etc. Substantiation of the health claims and examining efficacy/safety of dietary supplements and functional foods is the prime focus of this theme in which Professor Garg and his colleagues has acclaimed international recognition. Professor Garg has been involved with research in the nutraceutical industry including:

  • Meat & Livestock Australia: Research project to determine if DPA is a unique fatty acid and should be included in the nutrient claim on foods.
  • NuMega/EPAX: Several projects examining the health benefits (lipid-lowering, weight loss and maintenance, diabetes mellitus, mental health etc) of fish oil concentrates.
  • Meadowlea Foods/Canola Council of Canada: Health effects of canola oil.
  • Speirs Internationals/Riddet Institute in NZ: Development of a fish oil fortified dip.

For further information on the research of this centre, please visit the PRC PAN web page.


Centre for Optimal Planning and Operations (C-OPT)

The Centre for Optimal Planning and Operations (C-OPT) brings together researchers with expertise and experience in using quantitative methods to develop innovative, customised solutions that help businesses streamline their processes and enhance their decision making, to reduce costs, increase productivity, and positively impact their triple bottom line.

If you would like to see a more in-depth look at the past successes of this centre, please visit the C-OPT web page.


Centre for Complex Dynamic Systems and Control (CDSC)

A prime goal of Centre for Complex Dynamic Systems and Control (CDSC) is to combine outstanding fundamental and applied research to back Australia's industrial competitiveness and capabilities by developing partnerships between researchers and industry enable reciprocal transfer of knowledge and new ideas of great potential impact on the community and economy.

The CDSC specialises in analysis, design, optimisation and control of dynamic systems. For example, one Industry Partner installed a Control Performance Optimizer developed with CDSC expertise on a boiler which used waste material to generate power resulting in a 3.5% increase in electrical power generation

The CDSC also has expertise in a range of other process control and optimisation projects including ford extruder control, and separator optimisation.

For further information regarding the centre's research, please visit the CDSC web page.


Biological Mass SpectrometryAnalytical & Biomolecular Research Facility (ABRF)

The Analytical & Biomolecular Research Facility (ABRF) is a research support unit of the University of Newcastle's Research Division.  The facility has a variety of advanced scientific instruments that are routinely used for analytical purposes in the food and beverage industry.  These instruments include liquid chromatographs and mass spectrometers of various types that can perform a diverse array of chemical and biochemical analyses, both qualitative and quantitative.  For the food and beverage industry, the application areas where these instruments are of most benefit are:

  • Food Chemistry (chemical profiling and other measurements of foods and beverages for, for example, quality control purposes).  Typical useful analyses are the measurement of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, fragrances, flavours, preservatives, nutraceuticals and other substances for nutritional information and/or requirements.
  • Food Safety (detection of chemical substances that affect the safe consumption of foods and beverages) e.g. acrylamide, bisphenol A (BPA), plant/fungal/bacterial toxins, pesticides, dioxins, phthalates, veterinary drugs, heavy/toxic metals
  • Food Adulterants (detection of food and beverage additives used fordilution and/or doping purposes) e.g. Sudan I dye in chilli powder

The ABRF has instrumentation in the following groups that are ideally suited for the above applications:

  • Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry(LC-MS) – proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, nutraceuticals, antibiotics and many more,
  • Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry(GC-MS) – lipids (e.g. fatty acids, cholesterol and other sterols), pesticides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, acrylamide, organics acids, carbohydrates (e.g. sugars) and much more,
  • Atomic mass spectrometry (e.g. ICP-MS) – heavy metals, toxic and non-toxic elements (e.g. lead, mercury, cadmium, zinc, copper, iron)

Further information about the equipment and facilities can be obtained by visiting the ABRF web page.


NSW DPI Central Coast Primary Industries Centre

NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) is one of the largest research providers to primary industries in Australia with a research portfolio of more than 900 active projects and annual expenditure of greater than $100 million across more than 50 disciplines. The Department seeks to improve the productivity, sustainability and biosecurity of the states primary industries and enters into strategic partnerships where appropriate to facilitate these outcomes.

The Central Coast Primary Industries Centre (CCPIC) which is the NSW DPI's Centre of Excellence for Market Access and Greenhouse Horticulture is located on the University's Ourimbah campus. The CCPIC develops and implements science-based technologies for horticultural crops in NSW and Australia.

In addition, researchers at CCPIC conduct applied industry focussed research in postharvest, supply chains and market access to provide innovative solutions to practical industry problems. CCPIC researchers also have strong and active collaborations with University researchers including joint supervision of higher degree research students.

Current CCPIC projects and active areas of research include:

  • Product quality and postharvest quality maintenance through the supply chain of a range of horticultural and agricultural products,
  • Reduce energy costs to business through the optimised use of refrigeration in the supply chain,
  • Research to maintain and improve market access for a range of horticultural commodities,
  • Collaborative research to facilitate the cost effective utilisation of waste,
  • Improving the efficiency of low-medium technology greenhouse vegetable production in Australia,
  • The nutrition of leafy vegetables including Asian vegetables in hydroponics,
  • Improving the cultivation of indigenous vegetables by women in Vietnam and
  • Improving the nitrate nutrition of Australian grown green tea.

There is a close working relationship between the NSW DPI CCIPC and UoN's Nutrition, Food and Health Research Group. The two groups work together on industry focussed research in food processing and technology.

Visit the NSW DPI website for more information.


Degree Programs

Graduates from UON are rated among the best in the world because our engaged learning practices ensure their education takes place both in and out of the classroom. More than 90 per cent of our undergraduate degrees offer the opportunity for students to participate in a work placement. This ensures that our graduates are industry ready.

Hosting a student placement can be organised through our Work Integrated Learning program or by way of an industry scholarship through the University of Newcastle Industry Scholarship scheme.

Bachelor of Food Science and Human NutritionBachelor of Food Science and Human Nutrition

The Bachelor of Food Science and Human Nutrition program is run at our Ourimbah Campus. To ensure our students complete their degree with experience relevant to the industry they train in a test kitchen sponsored by Sara Lee Australia as well as completing work placement with industry partners including Mars, Agrana, Baiada Poultry, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Ingredients Plus and Healthy Kids Association.

Bachelor of Biotechnology

Biotechnology is predicted to provide solutions to a number of problems facing our society, including human and animal diseases and food security. The Bachelor of Biotechnology at the University of Newcastle has a particular focus on the application of DNA and cell technologies on human health, plant and animal agriculture and the environment. The degree also offers a unique (10 weeks, full time) placement opportunity and has strong ties to industry. If your business is interested in hosting a student for 10 weeks, please contact the Program Convenor.