To expand the technical talent pipeline, various players in the alternative protein field should reach out to scientists and engineers in relevant disciplines (e.g., biotech, biopharma, and food science) to inform them of opportunities to apply their existing expertise to this field. Efforts should target students and seasoned professionals.
The manufacturing capacity for rapid and cost-effective scale-up of alternative protein production is a current constraint on the growth of the industry. Repurposing and retrofitting stranded or underutilized assets such as shuttered bioethanol plants can help mitigate some of the financial hurdles and shorten the amount of time required for companies to expand production.
Interest in plant-based products is growing, but many consumers still express skepticism about plant protein foods, or simply lack familiarity with the category. Category marketing campaigns to promote plant-based and alt protein products, independent of specific brands, can engender familiarity and showcase recent innovations. Campaigns can emphasize flavor, convenience, familiarity, nutrition, and other positive attributes. Category marketing can help expand existing markets, increase demand, and promote alternative proteins for new markets and use cases.
Plant-based protein makerspaces would be publicly available spaces where interested members of the public could learn, experiment, and work collaboratively on projects related to plant-based proteins. They could offer access to the physical equipment necessary to conduct projects as well as technical assistance to inform them. The aim would be to encourage more interaction between the public and the alternative protein industry, thus stimulating the exploration and development of more ideas. Makerspaces may also be able to increase positive consumer perception of the technology by increasing familiarity with the relevant production processes. The logistics of the makerspace should be done in such a way to maximize democratization and inclusion of a large segment of the public.
Both the cultivated meat industry and interested members of the general public would benefit from the creation of makerspaces focused on cultivated meat. These would be publicly available spaces where community members can learn, experiment, and work collaboratively on projects related to cultivated meat. Here, they would have access to the physical equipment necessary to conduct projects as well as technical assistance to inform them. The aim of this project is to encourage more interaction between the public and the alternative protein industry, thus stimulating the exploration and development of more ideas. Makerspaces could also promote greater understanding of and openness to cultivated meat among future consumers of the product.
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.
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.
Given the strong and persistent growth in alternative protein production, the industry has a pressing need for a trained workforce. Technical colleges should establish programs to help train the next generation of alternative protein workforces and build a talent pipeline for the industry.