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Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

European Union research funding in cellular agriculture

In the light of the current pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis, it’s imperative that the EU rethink the ways in which animal-based foods are produced, as well as fostering research into cellular agriculture.

European governmental bodies are increasing their support for cellular agriculture

In the last two years, the European Union has been increasingly supportive of this nascent and promising field. 

In October 2021, Dutch cultured-meat pioneer Mosa Meat secured a €2-million EU grant for its ‘Feed for Meat’ project, in partnership with Nutreco, with the goal of lowering the costs of producing cultured beef and further improving the sustainability of cultured-meat production.[1]

As we strive to feed a growing population in a safe and sustainable way, we will need to utilise a variety of new and emerging protein-production methods.

Fulco van Lede

CEO, Nutreco

In July 2021, Gourmey, a French cultured-poultry company, completed a $10-million seed-funding round with high-profile investors, including Air Street Capital and Point Nine as well as the European Commission and France’s public investment bank, Bpifrance.[2]

In October 2020, the cultured-meat research programme Meat4all was awarded a €2.7-million grant under the EU’s Horizon 2020 R&D funding framework. This EU-funded project, led by the Spanish company BioTech Foods, is mandated to advance cultured-meat-production technology, improve market acceptance, and conduct safety-assessment tests in order to improve industrialisation and commercialisation.

This is the first time that Europe has effectively committed to cultured meat. Cultured meat will be a key ingredient of our future diet, and now we have it confirmed also by the institutions.[3]

Iñigo Charola

CEO, BioTech Foods

Other companies have previously received grants and funding from European governmental bodies. In August 2020, the Icelandic plant-based biotech company ORF Genetics was awarded a €2.5-million grant from the Grant Management Services of the European Commission. The grant is intended for the research and development of plant-based growth mediums, which are needed to regulate the growth and development of cells.[4] In December 2019, the Dutch cultured-meat company Meatable also received a $3 million grant from the European Commission, through the Eurostar Programme.[5]

Government support is crucial to driving innovation

Indeed, the very first research into cellular agriculture took place as part of a programme facilitated by the Dutch government agency SenterNovem from 2005 to 2009.[6] This research programme laid the foundations for the creation of the first cultured burger, in 2013. 

Since then, other governments have seen the potential of cellular agriculture. In 2019, the Flemish government awarded a 3.6 million-Euro grant to a Belgian consortium, including the cultured-meat startup Peace of Meat, to grow fat and liver cells for the production of foie gras.[7]

In January 2021, the Spanish government funded research for the health impacts of cultured meat.[8] Later that year, the UK government awarded a £1-million grant to the Edinburgh company Roslin Technologies to develop its cultured-meat technology[9], while the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced that it would fund R&D projects for alternative protein sources, with cultured and fermentation processes explicitly welcomed.

Cellular agriculture has the potential to greatly improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the European meat industry. As such, it’s great news that the European Union and European governments are beginning to support this exciting sector that promises so much potential.

References

References
1 Sally Ho (2021): Mosa Meat Bags €2M EU Grant to Slash Cell-Based Beef Costs by 100-Fold, Green Queen. Available at: https://www.greenqueen.com.hk/mosa-meat-nutreco-eu-grant/ [13.01.2022] 
2 Agnieszka de Sousa, Geraldine Amiel (2021): Lab-Grown Foie Gras Receives French Government Support, Tastes Delicious, Bloomberg. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-14/lab-grown-foie-gras-receives-french-government-support-tastes-delicious [13.01.2022]
3 Natasha Lomas (2020): Lab-grown meat project gets first taste of EU public funds, Tech Crunch. Available at:  https://techcrunch.com/2020/10/14/lab-grown-meat-project-gets-first-taste-of-eu-public-funds/ [05.11.20]
4 Vala Hafstad (2020): Icelandic Biotech Firm Receives Large European Grant, Iceland Monitor. Available at: https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/news/2020/08/01/icelandic_biotech_firm_receives_large_european_gran/
5 Jonathan Shieber (2020): Dutch startup Meatable is developing lab-grown pork and has $10 million in new financing to do it, Tech Crunch. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/06/dutch-startup-meatable-is-developing-lab-grown-pork-and-has-10-million-in-new-financing-to-do-it/
6 New Harvest (2015): Mark Post’s cultured beef. Available at: https://www.new-harvest.org/mark_post_cultured_beef [06.11.2020]
7 Eos Wetenschap (2019): Vlaanderen investeert in kweekvlees, EOS Wetenschap. Available at https://www.eoswetenschap.eu/voeding/vlaanderen-investeert-kweekvlees [22.05.2020]
8 Ashlen Wilder (2021): Spanish Government Funds BioTech Foods’ Cultured Meat Project, The Spoon. Available at:  https://thespoon.tech/spanish-government-funds-biotech-foods-cultured-meat-projec [13.01.2022]
9 Katy Askew (2021): UK government backs cellular meat innovator: ‘Developing cultivated meat is one of the most significant advances we can make’, Food Navigator. Available at: https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2021/11/05/UK-government-backs-cellular-meat-innovator-Developing-cultivated-meat-is-one-of-the-most-significant-advances-we-can-make [13.01.2022]

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