The collaboration required to grow and strengthen the plant-based sector extends beyond Canada’s borders. Innovation is happening around the world, and the countries who encourage their companies to partner internationally are those most likely to win the race to develop the novel food and ingredients global consumers are looking for.
“International partnerships can help increase both the pace and scale of progress in science and innovation, through accessing complementary knowledge and expertise that may not be as strong, or even absent in some domestic sectors or programs,” Innovate UK’s Deputy Challenge Director of Transforming Food Production Dr. Tom Jenkins said. “International partnerships also have the benefit of diversity of thinking, which often bring new approaches to problem solving that can be a powerful way to unlock barriers that may exist if we work on projects in isolation.”
Recently, Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, and Protein Industries Canada announced a partnership aimed at advancing connections between plant-based companies in both Canada and the United Kingdom. Leveraging a variety of initiatives, one of the partnership’s most significant activities is a project co-investment program that encourages companies to collaborate internationally in order to develop new technologies, ingredients and foods. Interest in the new program is high, with several companies from both regions already expressing interest.
Establishing such a partnership with Canadian organizations was both a strategic and natural choice for Innovate UK. Jenkins explained it builds on investment opportunities that the UK is making within its own sector, including through the Innovate UK Novel Low Emission Food Production Systems competition, which prioritizes plant-based proteins.
“Through the Barton report and establishment of the Superclusters, Canada has taken a very strategic leadership role across a range of sectors, such as plant-based proteins, and the investments made through Protein Industries Canada’s first five-year program have been impressive to observe,” Jenkins said. “Developing opportunities for Innovate UK to collaborate with Protein Industries Canada and the portfolio of projects that are underway, would be a fantastic way to understand where synergies may exist with the UK’s alternative protein ecosystem.”
The benefits of such strategic, cross-continental collaboration begin at the company level and ripple out to global consumers. For companies, one of the largest benefits is access to technologies or expertise they may otherwise not find in their home region. This enables them to develop innovative ingredients and products that meet the taste, texture and nutrition profiles consumers around the world are looking for, helping meet the growing demand for new protein options.
“It will also be interesting to explore how new ways of approaching challenges through international partnerships can help companies to solve recalcitrant problems the sector is facing and take novel approaches that help unlock challenges that are difficult to overcome when working through existing domestic networks,” Jenkins said. “We’re supporting a range of companies that are taking forward exciting new approaches to enhance the nutritional quality of beverages and food products, for example to increase fibre, or to replace salt and sugar with functional alternatives. There are also innovations being developed across the functional foods category, for example to support wellbeing, healthy aging, cognitive health and to manage metabolic disorders.”
With global consumers looking for new, more sustainable protein options, companies around the world have the opportunity to partner to create innovative products that exceed expectations. Strategic programs and initiatives offered by organizations such as Innovate UK and Protein Industries Canada are helping establish and solidify these partnerships, setting companies up for a successful international collaboration experience.
Dr. Tom Jenkins
Deputy Challenge Director of Transforming Food Production