The European Union funds research in cellular agriculture
10 December 2020
The year 2020 marks greater support from the European Union to foster research into cellular agriculture. In the light of the current climate and the pandemic crisis, it is imperative that the EU rethink the ways that animal-based foods are produced.
European governmental bodies are increasing their support for cellular agriculture
Meat4all, a cultured-meat research programme, has been 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, will 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.”
Iñigo Charola, CEO of BioTech Foods1
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.2
National governments have also invested in 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.4
Government support is crucial to driving innovation
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. This research programme laid the foundations for the creation of the first cultured burger, in 2013. However, since then, the cellular agriculture field has mostly attracted private investments. While private funding is important in bringing cultured products closer to market, a major challenge is the resulting tendency to work in silos, which reduces cumulative learning and thus significantly slows down the development of the entire sector – which is why government research programmes and grants can play a central role in ensuring faster progress, through shared basic knowledge.
Cellular agriculture has the potential to greatly improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the European meat industry. As such, it is great news that the European Union is increasingly supporting this nascent and promising field.
|↑1||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]|
|↑2||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/|
|↑3||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/|
|↑4||Eos Wetenschap (2019): Vlaanderen investeert in kweekvlees, EOS Wetenschap. Available at https://www.eoswetenschap.eu/voeding/vlaanderen-investeert-kweekvlees [22.05.2020]|