Led by the University of Bath, the Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub will run for seven years and aims to transform food production, transitioning to an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable model in which novel manufacturing systems complement traditional food production. This could drastically reduce carbon emissions and land use compared with traditional meat manufacture, for instance.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is funding the hub under its Manufacturing Research Hubs for a Sustainable Future initiative.
At Bath Professor Marianne Ellis will lead the project, working with colleagues from the Institute for Sustainability, Faculty of Engineering & Design, and School of Management including Professor Chris Chuck, Professor Marcelle McManus, Professor Davide Mattia, Professor Linda Newnes, Dr Hannah Leese, Dr Ming Xie and Prof Brian Squire.
The multidisciplinary project also includes colleagues from the University of Birmingham, University of Aberystwyth, University College London, and the Royal Agricultural University, wiith an array of expertise spanning the underpinning sciences, engineering, and social sciences as well as a range of industrial partners
The project will explore the benefits that could arise from developing cell-level processes enabling production of foodstuffs and co-products through a system akin to brewing, which could include lower carbon emissions, less pressure on land use, reduced water consumption and improved animal welfare.
Professor Ellis, from the Department of Chemical Engineering at University of Bath, said: “I am incredibly excited and thankful that the EPSRC have recognised the opportunities the emerging field of cellular agriculture brings to achieving net zero and addressing food security.
“We have an exceptional team spanning upstream and downstream processing, underpinning biology, upstream (consumer) engagement, supply chain, and life cycle assessment. Our initial focus will be the tissue engineered cellular agriculture product, cultured meat, and the precision fermentation product, alternative palm oil, but as the Hub expands we expect many other cellular agriculture products to benefit from the research programme.
“We will take a transdisciplinary approach by engaging with consumers and other stakeholders from the outset to ensure we compliment and boost our country’s food and farming industry for sustainability, social, and economic gains.”
The Cellular Manufacturing hub is one of two new initiatives, representing an investment of £24 million. The second, the the Future Vaccines Manufacturing Hub, is co-led by University College London (UCL) and the University of Oxford, and aims to make the UK the global centre for vaccine discovery, development and manufacture, enabling rapid roll-out of highly effective new vaccines for frontline use.
Minister of State for Science, Research & Innovation George Freeman said: “With 9 billion mouths to feed by 2050 we need to double world food production on the same land area, using half as much energy and water. We cannot achieve that through traditional agriculture. The Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub will spearhead the development of new processes to produce key food groups like proteins sustainably and cost effectively to feed a growing global population.”
Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, EPSRC Executive Chair said: “COVID-19 has given a graphic demonstration of the importance of vaccine discovery and manufacturing to pandemic preparedness. The need to provide plentiful, affordable, nutritious food supplies across the planet is also one of the 21st century’s big challenges. Our two new Manufacturing Research Hubs will make a game-changing contribution in these areas. Enabling the UK to provide global leadership, they will generate benefits not just in every region of this country but also at national and international level.”