Elevating the visibility and credibility of the field at scientific conferences will expand the technical talent pipeline and amplify collaboration and funding efforts.
Interdisciplinary research is essential for tackling many of the complex problems facing today’s world. Though the number of research projects advancing alternative protein science has increased in recent years, this research has been conducted in a largely disjointed fashion with few centralized hubs for coordination. The field would benefit from dedicated interdisciplinary research centers to drive the science and technology needed to address our unsustainable food and agriculture system. University centers of excellence are essential to rallying researchers and industry partners to tackle complex questions facing the alternative protein field today.
To ensure a strong talent pipeline, there is a need to launch robust university programming, ranging from certificate programs to short multi-course modules, centered around alternative protein. Full majors would include food science and other enabling sciences that help propel alternative protein food technology forward, as well as interdisciplinary coursework providing historical, economic, and philosophical context for food technology. Shorter multi-course modules and non-major certificate programs (like minors) could focus on enabling sciences, interdisciplinary background subjects, and/or business strategies for transforming our food system.
There is a significant and urgent need to launch and support university and online courses in order to build and extend the talent pipeline of students going into the alternative protein industry. Coursework can range from introductory to highly specialized, and will ideally be focused specifically on alternative proteins, but support for degree programs in enabling sciences will also be useful to the industry. A platform for sharing curriculum across institutions will empower new entrants to more easily build their own alternative protein courses.
Fibers from non-traditional texturization techniques like electrospinning, jet spinning, or blow spinning could impart texture throughout a product even if they don’t comprise the bulk of the end product, which may render these approaches economically viable for enhancing texture within a bulk product even at a relatively small scale.
Investors specializing in alternative proteins should be leveraged to educate the broader investment community through coalitions, syndicated deals, and co-investments with industry-agnostic investors, and spearhead efforts to facilitate later-stage funding like debt and inventory financing.
Universities are epicenters for creative problem-solving and cutting-edge research advancements, and they can serve as engines for interdisciplinary innovation. However, this potential is not being tapped fully by the alternative protein industry. University student groups at key universities can foster robust, in-person communities for students and researchers interested in elevating the profile of alternative proteins within the academy. This will generate a talent pipeline of informed and empowered young people poised to enter the sector after their education while simultaneously spurring greater awareness and involvement among established faculty members.
While emerging fermentation-derived ingredient companies often optimize their strain’s productivity in-house, it may be more efficacious for startups to engage contract research organizations with both deep microbial strain development expertise and also intimate familiarity with the unique considerations of the alternative protein sector.
Guaranteed offtake agreements, where buyers commit to purchase a volume of product, can help secure loans for infrastructure and other high-cost projects.
Open-access product formulation specifications could provide clear metrics and objectives for product developers on attributes like taste, price, nutrition, and ingredient ratios.