Research agenda set out for food industry funding

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, European union, Ciaa

Building consumer trust, food safety, processing techniques,
developing new products, and promoting sustainable production are
some of the research targets set out for funding yesterday by
industry.

The targets were unveiled yesterday at a meeting in Brussels to officially launch the research agenda for funding under the European Technology Platform (ETP) "Food for Life" programme. The funding is being directed at boosting the competitiveness of the EU's agro-food sector, which has lost global market share to the intense onslaught of nimbler more innovative foreign companies. The funding will be aimed at promoting the development of novel and improved food products, study the links between diet and brain activity, immune and intestinal functions and metabolic function, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the European Union (CIAA) said in a statement. "It will also seek to identify ways of building consumer trust in the food chain through up-front design and by the identification and promotion of best practices in sustainable food production,"​ the industry association stated. The ETP "Food for Life" programme was launched in 2005 under the auspices of CIAA. The research agenda is being developed in three phases, each resulting in a report that will contribute to an eventual roadmap and help direct available resources at both national and EU level, and from private and venture capital. "This roadmap will ensure effective co-operation under the umbrella of a coherent agenda for European research,"​ the CIAA stated. The first report was published in 2005 and provides an overarching strategy for the future of the food chain. The current report, published earlier this year, outlines priority themes for research as launched at the meeting yesterday. "The level of enthusiasm and interest from all stakeholders of the ETP 'Food for Life' has continued to increase, and this is reflected in the outstanding attendance at this year's conference,"​ Peter van Bladeren, a Nestlé executive and chairman of the ETP board, stated at the meeting. A third report, containing the final implementation plan, is due to be published early in 2008 and will outline the actions needed to achieve the ETP strategy. In previous reports the CIAA has noted that EU's research efforts have been fragmented and at a lower level than in other regions due, in part, to the many small and medium sized businesses operating in Europe. Food companies in Australia, Japan, Norway and the US all spend relatively more on research and development (R&D) than their counterparts in the EU. In 2004, the R&D intensity of the sector, expressed as expenditure, as a percentage of industry output, was, on average, 0.24 per cent, according to figures released by the CIAA. The equivalent figures for the US is 0.35 per cent, Australia at 0.40 per cent and Japan tops out at 1.21 per cent. The figures are particularly relevant as the EU market share of the global exports market is shrinking. It was 20 per cent in 2005, compared to 24 per cent in 1997, the CIAA stated. Exports totalled €48 billion in 2005, a gain of 5.3 per cent compared to 2004, while imports added up to €43 billion, a gain of 5.5 per cent. Within the food and drink sector, Nestlé was the world's biggest R&D investor in 2005. Unilever ranks second, although its R&D figure includes all the company food and non-food activities. Apart from these enterprises, three EU and four non-EU companies spend over €100m on R&D in 2005. Worldwide R&D investment continues to be concentrated in technology hardware, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and automobiles. The food sector ranks 15th in the industrial sectors by aggregate R&D from the global top 2000 companies. Information about the ETP "Food for Life" programme can be found at http://etp.ciaa.eu.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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