Getting closer to the ‘holy grail’ of alternative proteins requires more funding, urges GFI

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Sep 24, 2021 — The Good Food Institute (GFI) is providing US $ 5 million to spur research on alternative proteins – a “powerful and scalable climate solution” that lacks critical funding. New data from the nonprofit shows that public spending on R&D on alternative proteins in 2020 was US $ 55 million. By comparison, public spending on clean energy R&D was US $ 27 billion, or 490 times the public investment in R&D on alternative proteins.

“Thanks to a small number of generous donors, we are doing this by funding open access research that we consider urgent and essential to exist in the public domain,” shares the organization.

“This year, as part of our third annual competitive research grant competition, we are delighted to provide total funding of nearly US $ 5 million to 22 research projects that will bring us closer to the holy grail of alt protein – generating whole cuts of meat and seafood. it goes on.

“Thirteen of these projects focus on cultured meat, two on fermentation and seven on meat of plant origin. These projects will take place in eight different countries on four continents.

Alternative proteins can play a crucial role in this transformation. However, very little public sector funding has been spent on R&D on alternative proteins to date. GFI was only able to fund about 15 percent of the project proposals it received.

Government partnerships with academia and industry, such as India’s efforts to increase its production of algae for the protein, are considered essential.Securing follow-on funding to continue to train and develop viable research careers in the field is essential for progress, underlines GFI.

Private investment alone cannot solve the climate crisis
As GFI points out, scientists, entrepreneurs and engineers around the world are eager to apply their talents to the development of alternative proteins, but many are unable to do so as the relevant training programs have yet to. been funded on a large scale, underlines GFI.

Public funding of open access research that has real-world applications would ensure that private investments are not spent by duplicating core R&D efforts. Public funding will also stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and bring additional public benefits to food safety and security.

Government partnerships with universities and industry are seen as essential to provide funding and training opportunities to develop a skilled technical workforce, GFI points out.

For example, the Indian government and industry have already pledged INR 6,400,000,000 (US $ 87 million) to develop the algae economy in the country, which GFI says presents significant opportunities for the industry. local algae proteins.

Since 2019, GFI has funded more than US $ 13 million in open access research into alternative protein research, including 70 separate research projects.

“The scientists leading this research are advancing the science of alternative proteins, creating research consortia, and training students and post-docs to become the next industry leaders,” the organization says.

Technical talent can become a bottleneck without training
Notably, sales of plant-based alternatives are skyrocketing, particularly in Asia, the United States and Europe, with increasing investments in more sophisticated meat alternatives – such as plant-based filet mignon. – as companies develop their toolbox of ingredient solutions with new proteins, such as mushrooms.

But there are still significant technological challenges preventing the commercialization of delicious, affordable, and nutritious alt protein on a global scale.

GFI’s grant program provides essential levers to researchers in a wide variety of fields to help them develop their expertise to solve the challenges of developing and formulating alternative proteins.

About 20% of its grantees did not work directly on alt protein-related research before receiving funding from the GFI, indicating that researchers are able to generate new ideas in this area as long as the funding to pursue these. ideas exist.

GFI has already created its own ecosystem for R&D on alternative proteins, from the launch of the Collaborative Research Directory and its GFIdeas community, to the creation of chapters of the Alt Protein project at leading international universities.

“The demand for research funding from the scientific community is there,” says the organization. “Proportionate government investment is essential to meet this demand, accelerate the pace of alternative protein science, and more quickly unleash the suite of proposed positive climate and economic impacts.” “

“Governments should step in today to support the science that will transform our food system and help mitigate the impacts of climate change. “

By Benjamin Ferrer

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