The Novo Nordisk Foundation announces support for a new open collaborative platform to accelerate the development of plant-based foods

HELLERUP, Denmark, November 10, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A new collaborative platform, Plant2Food, aims to accelerate the development of plant-based foods. Researchers and companies are invited to collaborate to explore the complex challenges of plant and food science and share new knowledge across sectors – without taking out patents based on the results. The Novo Nordisk Foundation supports the platform with up to 27 million euros over the next five years.

It is necessary to convert much of our food production to plant-based foods if we are to make the best use of our agricultural land while being able to feed a growing world population.

The key to accelerating this transition is to develop a wider selection of tasty, nutritious and sustainable plant-based food products that are also affordable for consumers.

A new collaboration platform, Plant2Food, has been launched as a hub for researchers and companies to collaborate to solve some of the complex problems of developing plant-based foods – without taking out patents based on the results.

The platform is based on open collaboration, which means that the knowledge created through the platform becomes accessible to everyone, so that more companies and researchers can benefit from the same knowledge. The aim is to accelerate the global development of new plant-based foods and to optimize collaboration between the different sectors of plant and food science.

“We need to quickly develop foods that can feed a growing world population without overusing the planet’s resources. Plant2Food creates a unique opportunity to make Denmark a leader in the development of plant-based foods and to ensure that we let’s take advantage of the huge potential already existing in Denmark’s research and business community and network with the best international experts in the field,” says Claus FelbySenior Vice President of Biotech at the Novo Nordisk Foundation, which is granting up to €27 million (DKK 200 million) to Plant2Food over the next five years.

Researchers and companies will collaborate to solve complex problems

Plant2Food will be an open science innovation platform focused on open research collaboration. Thus, universities and companies joining the platform undertake to publish all the results of open research projects and renounce any claim of intellectual property rights. This will allow researchers and companies to co-develop project ideas and accelerate projects faster by starting them immediately when a research group and company agree to explore an idea. The open approach also gives everyone the opportunity to further develop the results and possibly use them for commercial purposes.

“This task is too complex for a single research group or company to solve alone. At Plant2Food, we want to analyze the value chain so that researchers and companies can draw contributions from unexpected sources and thus create solutions that otherwise would not be readily available,” says Marie Louise ConradsenHead of Open Science Innovation, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Faculty of Technical Sciences at Aarhus University, which hosts Plant2Food.

In addition to Aarhus University, the other partner universities of Plant2Food are the University of Copenhagenthe Technical University of Denmark and Wageningen University and research in the Netherlands. As partners, the four universities will have access to the funds allocated to research, which constitute the predominant part of the grant from the Foundation. Funds will be used to explore defined challenges in collaboration with industry.

Use better basic crop knowledge to develop products

Plant2Food will focus on developing basic knowledge about the properties of crops and how they can be used in food products. This knowledge can then be used further up the value chain to develop nutritious products that appeal to consumers.

Vegetable mince is an example of how crop processing is very important to the finished product. Opening a packet of vegetable hash that smells strongly of sulfur is hardly a positive experience for the consumer. Basic knowledge of cultures and how to reduce or block bad smelling components in the finished product is crucial.

Food & Bio Cluster Denmark is the fifth partner of Plant2Food and will focus strongly on how to translate research into practice in companies. This cluster represents small and large companies, knowledge institutions and other organizations working in the food and bioresource sector in Denmark. Food & Bio Cluster Denmark will connect researchers and industry in Plant2Food, so that research carried out by universities is disseminated and translated into practice in companies.

“The food industry is looking for new innovative solutions in plant-based foods to meet a growing market. For example, there is a strong demand for new ingredients that are grown in Denmark and can contribute to an enhanced taste experience. This is precisely why we need research on new ingredients and on the varietal development of existing protein crops that have good growing characteristics in the Danish climate. An improved ingredient base can contribute to the whole plant-based food industry becoming a new strong position for the Danish food industry,” says director Lars Visbech Sørensen, pointing out that Food & Bio Cluster Denmark is already in dialogue with a large number of companies who have expressed a need for new and lasting solutions.

About Plant2Food

Plant2Food is an Open Innovation in Science platform based on open, patent-free research in which universities and companies collaborate to solve complex challenges. All partners waive their claims to take intellectual property (IP) rights to the knowledge used in the platform.

The collaborations focus on early research in the development of plant-based foods. This means that the research being conducted is at the low end of the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale, which expresses the degree of maturity of a specific technology.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a grant of up to DKK 200 million for Plant2Food, with 80% of the grant allocated to fund research projects awarded through an open competition via the platform. The remaining 20% ​​will finance secretarial services and networking and twinning activities. The duration of the project is five years.

Researchers from the four partner universities can apply for Plant2Food grants. The same applies to researchers from other universities if they accept the same agreement to waive their claims to take intellectual property rights on the knowledge used in the platform as the partner universities. Plant2Food is open to all industry partners, but they cannot apply for research funding. They can instead participate as project partners without any co-funding.

Plant2Food partners are:

  • Aarhus University
  • University of Copenhagen
  • Technical University of Denmark
  • Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands
  • Food & Bio Cluster Denmark

This is the second time that the Foundation has supported the development of an Open Innovation in Science platform. In 2020, the Foundation granted DKK 54.5 million for the Open Discovery Innovation Network (ODIN), which has the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry as its focal point.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation

Established in Denmark in 1924, the Novo Nordisk Foundation is a corporate foundation with philanthropic purposes. The Foundation’s vision is to improve the health of people and the sustainability of society and the planet. The Foundation’s mission is to advance research and innovation in the prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic and infectious diseases as well as to advance knowledge and solutions to support a green transformation of society.

SOURCE Novo Nordisk Foundation

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