Transforming agrifood: EIT Food to increase investment to €56.4m in 2019

Transforming agrifood: EIT Food to increase investment to €56.4m in 2019

07 Mar 2019 --- The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Food will be investing €56.4 million into innovative projects contributing to its mission of transforming the agrifood system in 2019, an increase of 44 percent over 2018. EIT Food’s 2019 projects include activities that aim to sustainably increase food production, reduce food waste, improve public health and measure consumer confidence in the agrifood sector.

The enhanced investment in 2019 will go towards accelerating the activities of EIT Food’s partner network, which consists of over 50 organizations from the food industry and universities, and over 50 agrifood start-ups.

Click to EnlargeIn its work, EIT Food focuses on six strategic objectives to help guide responses to the key demographic, environmental and health challenges threatening the future of people and the planet, via the transformation of the food system. These objectives aim to overcome low consumer trust, help people make more informed health choices and build connected food supply systems. They will also drive EIT Food to improve food sustainability and enhance food education and entrepreneurship.

“EIT Food’s vision is to put Europe at the center of a global change in food innovation and production, and its value in society,” Saskia Nuijten, Director of Communication at the EIT, tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “Food is at the heart of many of the societal challenges we are facing in terms of health, sustainability and access to quality food. A transformation is needed to nurture and create a food system fit for purpose,” she adds.

Nuijten lists the challenges that the group is working to address as follows:
· Transparency in the supply chain: The objective is to increase trust in the food system and the value perception of food.
· Distorted nutritional habits: The objective is to create consumer-valued food for healthier nutrition.
· Fragmented supply chain: The objective is to build a consumer-centric connected food system.
· Sustainability: The objective is to enhance sustainability through resource stewardship.
· Skill gaps: The focus is to educate and engage, innovate and advance and attract new talent to the agrifood sector.
· Limited entrepreneurial culture: The objective is to catalyze agrifood sector entrepreneurship and innovation.

The funds required for these investments have been secured from the EIT, under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation framework program and partner contributions. These funds will be invested in EIT Food’s diverse innovation ecosystem, including projects in the areas of start-ups (€6.8m), food system education (€7.8m), innovation projects creating marketable products and services (€25.6m) and public engagement (€5.2m).

EIT Food is also strongly committed to boosting innovation in European countries and regions that are officially referred to as “modest and moderate” innovators, and will invest almost €3m in 2019 in programs and activities that aim to address the innovation gap in these areas.

Nuijten notes that the EIT Food RisingFoodStars Association serves as an umbrella association for high potential agrifood start-ups and scale-ups. Over 50 agrifood start-ups are involved in this network. This international innovation vehicle offers outstanding young companies access to knowledge, networks and the opportunity to actively engage in EIT Food’s activities. “They are benefiting from access to our partners, the expert network, programs, technological infrastructure and business creation support as well as potential customers and distribution channels, which will significantly accelerate their international growth,” she explains.Click to Enlarge

“On the other hand, as agile and swift partners, they can drive the innovations of the future within our network. The collaborations between the RisingFoodStars and the other EIT Food partners provide an entrepreneurial and agile innovation culture which will bring complementary competences of start-ups lined up along the food supply chain and unprecedented value in terms of cutting-edge technologies and innovative business models,” she notes.

Brexit is a concern for EIT, which is watching the developments around the UK’s exit from the UK closely. “A number of our partners are from the UK. We follow the developments closely and will implement [policies] based on the outcome of the final agreement the UK will conclude with the EU,” she concludes.

By Robin Wyers

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