Putting consumers at the heart of food innovation: €400k up for grabs to test societal impact projects

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

EIT Food launches open calls to put consumers at the heart of food innovation and research. Pic: GettyImages
EIT Food launches open calls to put consumers at the heart of food innovation and research. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags EIT Food agriTech Innovation Consumers Health Sustainable food systems Environmental impact Funding startups European Institute of Innovation & Technology

Applications are now open for EIT Food’s latest Proof of Concept Call, which aims to foster a positive impact on society through public engagement initiatives that enhance consumer trust, improve health outcomes and reduce the environmental impacts of the food system.

EIT Food - which is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union - is the world’s largest food innovation community, making funds available to unlock potential and scale up groundbreaking agrifood startups.

It has opened its latest Proof of Concept Call window,​ inviting organisations to apply for up to €50,000 (with a total of €400,000 available) to test whether an idea - when turned into reality - would bring about a positive impact on society.

The funding offers the organisation or consortia the opportunity to spend sufficient time on testing and demonstrating the relevance of the proposed concept or approach. The Proof of Concept phase can also be used to build a scale-up model for a multi-year project.  

As well as funding, successful applicants will be able to access EIT Food’s expert community, including potential collaborators.

Topics selected for the Proofs of Concepts should support EIT Food’s vision: a world where everyone can access and enjoy sustainable, safe and healthy food with trust and fairness from farm to fork. 

The Proof of Concepts (PoC) project ideas should have an aim to:  

  • Equip individuals to make more informed choices (healthier/more sustainable)  
  • Increase transparency and engagement in the food system  
  • Include consumer involvement in shaping a future food system  

The drivers of food trends

Woman shopping looking at label Getty
Pic: GettyImages

“Consumers are central to the development of a better food system. They are the driver of food trends and the ultimate reason why food is produced,”​ said Sofia Kuhn, head of Public Engagement at EIT Food.

“Through these calls, EIT Food will support impactful public engagement projects, individuals and organisations that share the goal of putting consumers at the centre of food innovation and research. We want to hear from those who share our mission of creating a healthier, more sustainable and trusted food system.”

Marta Erquicia González-Careaga, public engagement programme manager, added EIT Food is looking forward to receiving the next cohort of PoC proposals that have the potential to transform the food system.

“Engaging with consumers is critical to delivering an inclusive agrifood sector that produces healthy, sustainable food and empowers all people to participate and benefit,”​ she said.

If the project proves to have potential for societal impact during the testing phase, the activity leader will be invited to submit a full proposal for continuation.

What EIT Food brings to the table

Finger on the pulse trends inflation Ibrahim Akcengiz
Pic: GettyImages

In 2021, 13 PoCs were selected be tested, including a behaviour-change initiative to reduce childhood obesity; a proposal to increase capabilities of diabetic people in deprived areas; and a guide for the sustainable disposal of food packaging. Seven PoCs selected in 2022 are currently in the testing phase, including a regenerative agriculture push to make Ibiza less dependent on imports; a study to predict the future of our food system (using lessons learned from the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the runaway inflation); and a bid to create urban food-producing Green Belts.

“The funding provided by EIT Food has enabled us to work with people who have specific expertise on areas we want to develop, and to dedicate funding to outreach to our local community,”​ said Alicia Torres, coordinator for Juntos Farm.

“This means we are able to learn more about the real needs of the sector on Ibiza - an island that has lost over 50% of its agricultural land in the last 20 years​.

Added Juntos Farms’ Finn Harris, “Being able to present the project to the agrifood sector on the island is permitting us to gain feedback on where the project is succeeding and failing. It has enabled us to monitor broader island-wide social changes, including the growing number of residents working in the food economy and what infrastructure is needed on the island to increase food sovereignty while facilitating a transition to regenerative agriculture.”

Sarah Braeye, coordinator for The Success Project - an effective PoC that has been implemented as a full, three-year project to bring about a fundamental shift towards sustainable food consumption - said, “EIT Food has allowed us to set up a unique learning network with the five key retailers in Belgium (Carrefour, Aldi, Lidl, Delhaize and Colruyt) in which, together with civil society actors, universities and the government, we analyse and discuss on how we can jointly accelerate and upscale systemic change in the food system.

“Each action taken within The Success Project is scientifically underpinned by scientific research and experiments with citizens and supermarkets – also enabled by EIT Food.

“The Proof of Concepts has allowed to upscale internally and nationally tested strategies within an international consortium, including in lesser-known regions such as Poland.”

Organisations have until 18 August 2023 to apply​for the latest Proof of Concept window.

There will be another submission window on 15 June 2024.

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