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Last call for GFI alternative protein research grants

Article-Last call for GFI alternative protein research grants

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Alternative protein researchers have until 23 May to apply for grants from the Good Food Institute (GFI) – particularly those working on upcycled plant proteins, next-gen fermentation, and hydrolysates for cultivated meat. 

The grant programme has a total of $3.4 million available and will award funding of up to $250,000 per eligible project, with up to $50,000 additional funding for projects partnering with researchers and/or industry stakeholders not previously engaged in alternative protein research.

David Hunt, research support manager at GFI Europe, told Fi Global Insights about the opportunity and the impact of previous programmes on the alternative protein field.

“GFI takes a big-picture perspective to address today’s industry-wide challenges, and when selecting topics for our research grants programme we always seek to address the most pressing bottlenecks in the alternative protein space,” he said.

Our research grants programme has enabled scientists to tackle some of the most important challenges in scaling up alternative protein production. Researchers funded by the programme have made important contributions in areas ranging from developing cell lines for cultivated seafood to developing better flavours using fermentation and helping improve plant-based meat and dairy made using pea proteins.”

Three priority topics 

GFI Europe has identified three priority topic areas for its grant program – upcycled plant proteins, next-gen fermentation downstream processing, and hydrolysates for cultivated meat. 

Hunt explains why each of these topics is particularly relevant right now, beginning with upcycling plant proteins, which the grant specifies as efforts to ‘improve the functionality of known food industry sidestreams using emerging processing methods/technology with a calculated sidestream volume, limited economic assessment, and end-product demonstration.’

“The food manufacturing sector is responsible for 39% of food losses and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals includes a target of halving per capita global food waste by 2030. Upcycling plant proteins is a way of valorising crops for human consumption, using protein-rich materials as higher-value ingredients in the alternative protein sector,” said Hunt.

Downstream fermentation has been selected as a priority because it is a relatively underfunded component in the fermentation process. The grant seeks ‘sustainable and low-cost approaches for downstream food protein isolation from precision fermentation biomanufacturing.’

“Improving upstream fermentation processes can increase the efficiency of producing precision fermentation-derived products, but this alone won’t lead to reaching the price targets needed for these ingredients to enter the mainstream. With increased fermentation outputs and industry scaling, downstream processing – such as protein purification methods – also needs to be improved,” he said.

The third and final priority area is research into hydrolysates for cultivated meat. Researchers that look to optimise raw material processing and characterisation to enable lower-cost and higher-performing hydrolysate ingredients for cultivated meat media” are also welcome to submit their proposals.

Hunt explains why this is another key grant area: “Models suggest that using plant-derived hydrolysates to produce the amino acids needed for cell culture media could significantly lower the cost of cultivated meat production. However, several advances must be made before hydrolysates can easily slot into the variety of cell culture media used to cultivate meat and become the primary supply of amino acids.”