2023: A Record-Breaking Year for UK Research Funding in Alternative Proteins – The Benefits of Brexit?

The results of a £15.6 million funding call tops a bumper year for British alternative protein researchers and entrepreneurs.

Food producers will work with British universities on a wide range of projects benefiting from last week’s Low Emission Food Syatems investment. These include using new technology to reduce the cost of cultivated meat, artificial intelligence to find new strains of yeast to scale up precision fermentation, and developing high-protein plant-based cheeses.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – the country’s biggest public funding body – has comfortably invested more in alternative proteins in 2023 than throughout the entire previous decade (2012-2022), with the vast majority driven by three of the organisation’s research councils – the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

GOOD CARMA

A stand-out investment came in April when the EPSRC invested £12 million to establish the Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub (CARMA) led by the University of Bath – a game-changing leap forward for the development of cultivated meat and precision fermentation in the UK.

The funding, which is the largest single investment the UK Government has made to date in alternative proteins, formed a research hub that will run until the end of the decade, investigating how to produce cultivated meat at scale, as well as developing ingredients such as sustainable palm oil through precision fermentation.

By 2030, the group aims to make significant contributions to cracking some of the biggest technical challenges blocking the commercialisation of cultivated meat, such as creating inexpensive cell culture media – the nutrient-rich “broth” that enables cells to grow. In addition CARMA will help to establish a network to enable some of the country’s best alternative protein scientists to exchange ideas with industry – and vice-versa – while attracting talented new researchers to the field.