Politics & Law

UK Government Backs Cultivated Meat and Fermentation in Landmark £2 Billion Plan

The UK Government has unveiled its National Vision for Engineering Biology, a £2 billion plan to seize the potential of biotechnology to revolutionise food production, medical advancements, and sustainable fuel production.

“Engineering biology is, in many ways, the future of science”

Over the next ten years, the government will fund the necessary activities and reforms to propel the country’s biotech ecosystem, which includes the cultivated meat and fermentation industry. The new strategy highlights these technologies as climate and food security solutions capable of “reducing pressure on land use for pasture.”

The Minister for Science, Innovation and Research, Andrew Griffith, said: “Engineering biology is, in many ways, the future of science: using engineering to harness the power of nature to overhaul what is possible – from the treatment of disease to how we sustainably produce food and fuel.”

A woman and a men eating tacos.
© Quorn

Driving change

The government’s strategy includes changes in food regulations to accelerate product development and the path to market to grow the UK’s alternative protein sector and make a significant change. According to the Good Food Institute Europe, the plan commits to the creation of several regulatory sandboxes (isolated frameworks allowing experiments in a controlled environment) to enable swift and robust product safety assessment across engineering biology.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), responsible for the novel foods regulatory framework, also announced that it will bid for a new cultivated meat regulatory sandbox to support innovation. The FSA recently published business guidance on the authorisation process of cell-based products in Great Britain.

As necessary as regulations, the new vision will fund R&D and infrastructure to help entrepreneurs scale their operations. The government will launch a new Engineering Biology Steering Group to support these initiatives.

The UK’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) also highlighted the critical role cultivated meat could play in achieving essential national economic growth and food production objectives as part of the National Vision for Engineering Biology.

Uncommon bacon
© Uncommon

Biotechnology for food

The Good Food Institute Europe’s recent UK ecosystem review suggests that the country needs to invest £390 million in alternative proteins between 2025 and 2030 to gain a foothold in the global race to create alternatives to animal products.

According to the study, since 2012, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has invested around £43 million in R&D for plant-based (£15.4M), fermentation (£6.4M), and cultivated meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy. Almost two-thirds (65%) have been allocated between January 2022 and May 2023.

UKRI has invested more funding in cultivated meat than in other categories, including the new £12 million research hub, suggesting the government is beginning to seize the opportunity of this technology.

The UK has at least 23 cultivated meat companies working to develop cruelty-free and sustainable meat. In 2022, companies in this field received more private investment than the rest of Europe combined, highlights the report.

Regarding precision fermentation, the GFI considers the sector is relatively underdeveloped in open-access research and commercialisation. By contrast, the potential of biomass has been harnessed by Quorn, which reportedly operates the largest alternative protein factory in the world.

Linus Pardoe, UK Policy Manager at Good Food Institute Europe, commented on the new strategy: “We warmly welcome the government’s National Vision for Engineering Biology and its clear support for alternative proteins like cultivated meat.

“Action must now follow this vision: establishing new food-grade pilot facilities, forging a new cultivated meat regulatory sandbox and investing in the alternative protein workforce should all be top priorities for UK science and innovation over the rest of the decade.”

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