UK must boost investment in alternative proteins by 2030 to develop a sustainable food ecosystem, says report
The UK could boost its number of green jobs, strengthen food security and remain competitive if it makes significant investment in the research and development of alternative proteins in the country, according to a new report.
Published by Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe, the review advises the Government to invest £78 million annually in alternative proteins research between 2025 and 2030. This includes scaling up development in the plant-based, precision-fermentation, and cultivated meat sectors.
The report shows much investment is already going to the alt-protein sector in the country. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the chief research funding agency has invested more than £43 million in R&D for sustainable proteins since 2012, with two thirds of it since 2022.
It also reveals the UK’s cultivated meat sector is home to at least 23 start-ups, and raised more private investment in 2022 than the rest of Europe.
Despite the current investment in sustainable proteins, most funding appears to have gone to cultivated meat, which means public research into developing better tasting and cheaper plant-based meat products is lagging behind.
The report also highlights that while sustainable protein technology such as precision fermentation, is growing in popularity in countries such as Israel and the United States, it remains comparatively undeveloped in the UK.
By showing stronger support for the development of alternative proteins, GFI Europe says the UK could build sustainable protein industry clusters in regions across England such as the north east, Yorkshire and the Cambridge-Norwich Tech Corridor.
Increasing investment in the sector could bring major economic benefits too. Earlier this month, analysis from environmental group Green Alliance showed the UK’s alternative proteins industry could bring in £6.8 billion annually and create 25,000 new jobs by 2035.
As well as investing £390 million by 2030 into open-access research, business grants and a new sustainable protein hub to support small businesses in the sector, GFI Europe is urging the Government to provide the Food Standards Agency with £30 million to help it develop reforms that could improve trust and confidence in the novel foods pre-market authorisation process.
It has also called for the Government to use the upcoming engineering biology action plan to prioritise scientific research around alternative proteins, and to create a national plan for the future development of the sector.
Linus Pardoe, UK Policy Manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, reflected on the report in a statement: “The UK is home to dynamic food producers, world-leading scientists and a strong plant-based market – all the tools needed to build a globally competitive sustainable protein industry capable of reducing emissions, creating green jobs and making the country less reliant on imports.
“The government promised to keep the UK at the forefront of this growing sector in last year’s food strategy, but it must act now to deliver on that ambition, including investing £390 million in research and giving the Food Standards Agency the resources it urgently needs. Failing to act risks the UK missing out on economic and environmental benefits as other countries race ahead.”