The Booster was announced by Marije Beens, Director General Agro at the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality at the recent UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome. It aims to ‘surface’ ideas in the field of obesity reduction for partnership with the Food Innovation Hub and beyond.
“Innovation requires a system-wide holistic approach and integrated policies. These should be supported by multi-stakeholder partnerships at all levels to scale up effective innovations. Booster is a brand-new prise award that will support this kind of collaboration,” Beens said.
Worldwide initiatives can register online for the Booster until 1 October, with three winners due to be announced on 15 October, World Food Day.
Recipients of the three awards will each receive €30,000 to be used to support their development work. They will also be monitored for a year and gain access to a ‘large international food network’.
“In this way, Food Innovation Hub Europe accelerates the cooperation between relevant parties and the creation of obesity-reducing solutions.”
Facilitating increased levels of collaboration across different stakeholders will be crucial to finding innovative solutions for challenges like rising obesity levels, indicates Dr Jeroen Wouters, Lead Global Connections at Foodvalley NL – which is working alongside the Food Innovation Hub – told FoodNavigator.
“We have to join forces to make the healthy choice the easy choice and combat obesity. A lot of different stakeholders are needed in order to achieve immediate and substantial progress to let people age in a healthy way.
“In our work collaboration is essential. In 2050 our food system needs to offer food security to ten billion people worldwide. Tasty, affordable, healthy and sustainable food produced with respect for animals and our planet. It is a major challenge but one that is achievable if we join forces and shape the future of food together.”
Since 2004 Foodvalley NL has been developing and strengthening an international ecosystem of organizations that work together towards a transition to a sustainable food system. “We work closely with corporates, SMEs, and governments at every level, and with renowned educational and research institutions,” Dr Wouters explained.
Criteria and innovation opportunities
So, what will the judges be on the lookout for as they work to narrow down the field and select winning ideas?
The Booster is focusing on personalised nutrition approaches, tools or technology. Three main criteria will be placed under the microscope, we were told.
Firstly, the potential impact of personalised approaches will be assessed with the ambition of finding ideas that will potentially lead to ‘a significant reduction of obesity’, delivering a positive impact on people and the planet. This could be achieved by shifting people’s values and / or influencing political and corporate approaches to the field of obesity prevention.
The feasibility of individual entries will also be taken into account. “The initiative is rooted in local research and the initiative includes experts to ensure that the initiative is feasible at the technical, economic, political and social level,” Food Innovation Hub Europe coordinator Dr Wouters explained.
The Booster is also looking for opportunities to support diverse partners coming together to combat obesity. “The initiative is a joint effort by a variety of partners with different backgrounds or fields of expertise… [It] supports ‘unlikely partnerships’ to support development in the field of reduction of obesity and personalised nutrition.”
Looking at the innovation opportunities that offer greatest opportunity to combat obesity, the need to create a ‘better’ food environment is paramount.
“The areas that can contribute to the opportunity to combat obesity are making the healthy choice the easy choice by creating a better purchase and eating environment including new routes to market, using digitalisation, creating new food concepts and positive reformulation. In the Booster we are specifically focussing on a personalized approach to reduce obesity," Dr Wouters said.
Innovation, alongside political and corporate action, is an important lever to combat obesity and related non-communicable diseases, Dr. Wouters of Foodvalley NL believes.
“Innovation can contribute to the reduction of obesity, both via technical as well as social innovation. We anticipate supporting this development via this Booster program. In addition, we would foresee that also changes on political and corporate policy level will contribute,” he predicted.