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.
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.
There is currently a lack of resources for high school students interested in alternative proteins. Students interested in entering this field would benefit from the creation of summer courses that provide motivated high school students with the theoretical background, hands on experience, and a network of peers to help foster their interest in alternative proteins. The aim of initiating such a program is to encourage students to pursue self-directed learning in this area, thus stimulating growth in the alternative protein community.
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.
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.
The alternative protein industry has a significant need for workers and innovators with specialized knowledge spanning multiple traditional disciplines. However, since few universities offer alternative protein majors or dedicated subject matter, most alternative protein knowledge has to be learned on the job. The alternative protein industry needs educational programming that can cover the depth and complexity of knowledge, experience, and skills required within the context of traditional academic institutions as well as post-graduate professional development and training opportunities.
More frameworks for academic-industry collaboration could help build talent pipelines, create research commercialization pathways, and drive alignment on research priorities.