The University of Cambridge is one of a number of British universities and companies that have won access to a £340 million EU Innovation programme to change the way we eat, grow and distribute food. 

Our joint goal is in making the entire food system more resilient in the context of a changing climate, and improving health and nutrition for people across the world

Howard Griffiths

The project, called EIT Food, has ambitious aims to cut by half the amount of food waste in Europe within a decade, and reduce ill health caused by diet by 2030. It has received €400 million (£340m) of EU research funding, matched by 1.2 billion euros (£1 billion) of funding from industry and other sources over seven years.

The project is funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), and will have a regional headquarters at the University of Reading to co-ordinate innovation, cutting edge education programmes and support start-ups in the ‘north west’ sector of Europe, covering the UK, Ireland and Iceland.

The Europe-wide scheme was put together by a partnership of 50 food business and research organisations from within Europe’s food sector, which provides jobs for 44 million people. Cambridge is part of one of five regional hubs across Europe. Already confirmed as core partners in the UK-based ‘Co-Location Centre’ (CLC) alongside Cambridge are academic centres Matís, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Reading, as well as businesses ABP Food Group, PepsiCo and The Nielsen Company. Further partners are expected to be announced in the next year.

Professor Howard Griffiths, co-chair of the Global Food Security Strategic Research Initiative at the University of Cambridge, who will lead Cambridge’s involvement in the EIT, said: "Sustainability is a top-level agenda which is engaging both global multinational food producers and academics. Our joint goal is in making the entire food system more resilient in the context of a changing climate, and improving health and nutrition for people across the world."

EIT Food will set up four programmes to target broad societal challenges, including:

  • personalised healthy food
  • the digitalization of the food system
  • consumer-driven supply chain development, customised products and new technology in farming, processing and retail
  • resource-efficient processes, making food more sustainable by eliminating waste and recycling by-products throughout the food chain. 

EIT Food will also organize international entrepreneurship programmes for students, and develop a unique interdisciplinary EIT labelled Food System MSc for graduates. Thousands of students and food professionals will be trained via workshops, summer schools and online educational programmes like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and SPOCs (Specialized Private Online Courses).

Peter van Bladeren, Vice President Nestec, Global head Regulatory and Scientific Affairs for Nestlé and Chair of the Interim Supervisory Board of EIT Food, said: “EIT Food is committed to create the future curriculum for students and food professionals as a driving force for innovation and business creation; it will give the food manufacturing sector, which accounts for 44 million jobs in Europe, a unique competitive edge.”

Adapted from a press release by the University of Reading

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