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UK Gov invests £12m in fermentation hub for alternative proteins development

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

The fermentation hub will be led by Dr Rodrigo Ledesma-Amaro at Imperial College London. Credit: Imperial College London
The fermentation hub will be led by Dr Rodrigo Ledesma-Amaro at Imperial College London. Credit: Imperial College London

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The UK Government is investing £12m in an alternative protein research centre focused on fermentation-based foods.

Earlier this month, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced funding for six new Engineering Biology Mission Hubs, which includes the Microbial Food Hub.

Led by Dr Rodrigo Ledesma-Amaro at Imperial College London, the hub will explore different methods of fermentation to develop ingredients capable of producing the flavours and textures of animal products.

Methods that the hub will explore include biomass fermentation, which is similar to beer or yoghurt production, to grow large quantities of mycoproteins, as well as traditional fermentation, which uses microbes to improve the nutritional quality of plant-based products.

The team at Imperial will also work to develop the science of precision fermentation, in which organisms such as yeast are used to produce real egg or dairy proteins.

Experts from the University of Reading, the University of Kent, the University of Aberystwyth, the University of Cambridge and Rothamsted Research will also work on the project, in addition to industrial and food industry partners.

UKRI is also providing funding for University of Oxford cultivated meat researcher Hua Ye.

‘Potential to radically change how food is produced’

Commenting on the funding, Professor Ledesma-Amaro said: “Engineering biology is already being used to optimise microbial food production, and microbes can now be manipulated to be more productive, tastier and more nutritious. Applying recent scientific developments to microbial foods has the potential to radically change the way food is produced, creating an important and timely opportunity to address some of the most critical health and sustainability challenges of our time​.”

Meanwhile, Linus Pardoe, UK policy manager at nonprofit the Good Food Institute Europe, added: “Fermentation has extraordinary potential to boost the UK’s food security in an increasingly volatile world, helping us to reduce our dependence on cheap, imported foods.

“Following a series of bumper public funding announcements for UK alternative protein researchers and entrepreneurs, this is another strong indication that the British government recognises the need to invest in the R&D necessary to help scale up production, bring costs down and make this food available to everyone.”

In other news, food scientist, chef and author Anthony Warner has published a new report highlighting the need to reduce the costs of plant-based meat alternatives.

Related topics Emerging Science & Tech Environment

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