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The EU has announced that it will invest €50 million in 2024 to help start-ups scale up the production of alternative proteins using technologies such as precision fermentation.

Paleo precision-fermentation myoglobin proteins
© Paleo

The investment will be made as part of the European Innovation Council (EIC)’s Work Programme 2024, under the EU’s flagship Horizon Europe programme.

It aims to “improve the sustainability, efficiency and resilience of the European supply chain” through providing support to small businesses in the alternative protein space.

Precision fermentation is a method of fermentation whereby microorganisms, such as yeast, are used to produce real animal proteins – such as whey and casein – without the use of animals.

These proteins are often responsible for delivering the taste and texture of foods like cheese, meat and eggs, helping companies to create animal-free alternatives that are able to mimic the familiar qualities of their traditional counterparts.

Meat, eggs, dairy and seafood made using precision fermentation can significantly reduce carbon emissions and are also free from antibiotics.

Companies in Europe using precision fermentation to develop animal-free proteins include Paleo, a Belgium-based company developing animal-free, species-specific myoglobin proteins for meat alternative applications. Paleo has this week announced that it is expanding into the plant-based pet food market. Elsewhere, Onego Bio, based in Finland, is using the technology to create animal-free egg proteins and was shortlisted in FoodBev Media's inaugural World Cell-based Innovation Awards this year.

The funding, under the EIC’s Accelerator Challenge, aims to support the development of “viable alternatives that complement agriculture,” producing foods that are rich in protein and other nutrients.

The work programme highlights that these foods can be produced using existing agricultural sidestreams, with benefits including reduced pressure on natural resources such as land and water.

Acacia Smith, senior policy manager at non-profit think tank the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “It’s excellent that the EIC has recognised precision fermentation’s game-changing potential to feed Europe’s growing population, improve public health and reduce our reliance on imports”.

She added: “It’s also very welcome that this funding aims to develop new ways of scaling up production – tackling Europe’s lack of infrastructure – and to look at other critical areas such as consumer acceptance, regulatory approval and supporting the entry of these foods into the European market.”

EU announces €50m investment to support precision fermentation start-ups

Melissa Bradshaw

15 December 2023

EU announces €50m investment to support precision fermentation start-ups

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