The target, along with other research priorities, is outlined in an interim strategic research agenda for the coming 15 years, published as part of a joint effort between the food and drink industry and other stakeholders such as universities, research centres and those involved in the supply chain.
The effort hopes to develop innovative production processes and to deliver novel and improved food products as part of a bid to stimulate the sector's competitiveness.
The effort, called the European Technology Platform (ETP) on Food for Life, is a bid to focus research spending on health, quality, manufacturing, production consumer trends, sustainable production, food safety, supply chain management, communications, training and technology transfer.
ETP was launched in July 2005 under the umbrella of the Confederation of Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA).
"These products, together with recommended changes in dietary regimes and lifestyles, will have a positive impact on public health and overall quality of life," the interim agenda document stated. "...Targeted activities will support a successful and competitive pan-European agro-food industry having global business leadership securely based on economic growth, technology transfer, sustainable food production and consumer confidence."
The next stages of the ETP Food for Life project will be directed towards national and regional consultations to set priorities and to align the agenda with national activities.
The European agro-food industry is the largest manufacturing sector in Europe. The food and drink industry had a turnover of €810 billion euro in 2004 and employs about four million people. There are about 280,000 companies operating in the sector, of which 99 per cent are classified as small and medium enterprises (SME).
But low spending on developing new products and processing techniques coupled with sluggish export growth, has made the EU's food industry vulnerable to increased global competition, according to the CIAA. The bloc's spending on R&D remains lower than in other economies when expressed as a percentage of output. The figure is known as "R&D intensity" .
Even though the amount spent on R&D in the EU rose by 20 per cent between 1997 and 2001, it accounted only for 0.24 per cent of output in 2001, far beyond the average of 0.35 per cent of its main competitors, the CIAA stated.
Food companies in Australia, Japan, Norway and the US all spend relatively more on R&D than the EU. Japan sits on top of the pile.