Urgent need for investment in R&I

Published: 06/08/2020

The European Commission recognises that business is a central actor to drive innovation, knowledge transfer and competitiveness in the European food and drink sector.

It’s this belief that led to the establishment of the European Technology Platform (ETP) ‘Food for Life’ – an industry-led initiative to help set Europe’s research and innovation (R&I) agenda for the food and drink manufacturing sector. 

The ETP ‘Food for Life’ is composed of respected food experts from industry, including SMEs, and academia, and four years ago we identified three important R&I targets for the food and drink sector. These are:

1-     To increase the engagement of consumers. We want to better understand consumer needs and demands and to find new ways to empower consumers to become an active agent driving food innovation.

2-     To provide a more personalised food supply. Not only should consumers have access to sufficient and affordable food, we want the insights and innovations to provide exactly the ‘right’ food in terms of personal preferences, health and wellbeing.

3-     To develop a more flexible and sustainable food system. We need to provide good and healthy food while preserving the environment. To do this we need innovations to reduce the impact of food production, transportation and consumption.

We expand on these three points in our Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda and Implementation Action Plan and are very pleased to see much of this reflected in the objectives of Horizon Europe – the Commission’s next research and innovation programme – and the EU’s Food 2030 policy.

But with the publication of the EU’s Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy, in combination with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on our food system, especially on the SMEs, we believe there is now an urgent need for increased private and public investments in R&I to secure Europe’s role as a leading global provider for safe, sustainably produced foods and healthy diets. 

Our role is to help transform our sector through R&I by connecting with different partners and networks within the food system, from primary production, to manufacturing and distribution and from organisations such as the European Federation of Food Science and Technology, Food Force, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, Copa-Cogeca, and FoodDrinkEurope.

We need to leverage all actors and initiatives to develop an integrated programme coordinating both long-term research and short-term implementation, education, technology transfer and dissemination. We believe that public private partnerships must play a key role in this.

It is now crucial that the European Commission and Member States design a comprehensive strategy through Horizon Europe, surpassing previous support not only in terms of funding, but also preventing regulatory bottlenecks and engaging more with the food and drink sector. 

Prof. Dr Gert W. Meijer, Chairman of the European Technology Platform ‘Food for Life’.