On Wednesday, the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology and Good Food Institute (GFI) Israel announced their plan to establish a Sustainable Protein Research Center (SPRC), which will function as a hub for fundamental and applied research in the field of alternative proteins, commercialization and entrepreneurship as well as research support to the industry. Efforts to initiate the center’s establishment “are now in high gear,” according to a press release on the subject.
The SPRC already has a long list of goals to achieve with its 5-year budget of $20 million, including new faculty and technician recruitment, the construction of a building for the Carasso FoodTech Innovation Center and the purchase and maintenance of dedicated research equipment. As well, the SPRC will fund collaborative seed research and train graduate students and postdocs in related fields.
Dr. Michal Halpert, Director of Academic Relations at GFI Israel, noted the proven value that academic research provides to companies in the start-up nation. “Over 50% of the investments in start-up companies in Israel went to companies that were based on research that began in academia,” she said. “There is no doubt that the establishment of such a research center that will be the first of its kind in the world is important to maintaining Israel's leadership [in the alternative protein sector].”
Halpert continued, adding that “This is a big step for positioning the Technion, and the State of Israel, as the spearhead of developing the technologies that will reshape the future of food. Investing in research is critical. There is no ‘Hocus Pocus’ in food, and to bring about breakthroughs requires the investment of many years in research, many brilliant minds and millions of dollars — and the Technion does exactly that.”
Alternative protein on the rise
The field of alternative protein (or “sustainable protein”) development has seen significant growth in recent years. According to a report from the FAIRR Initiative, in the first half of 2022 alone, alternative protein companies raised $1.7 billion, representing a stable growth rate of 2% over 2021’s first half.
As well, the global alternative protein market is expected to reach $36.61 billion by 2029, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 12.4%, according to Research & Markets.
The sector also possesses a rare characteristic in that, despite recent market instability in the wake of geopolitical turmoil, it hasn’t seen any significant investment regression.
In terms of total investment in sustainable protein, Israel ranks second only to the US, with several of its start-ups having placed among the largest deals within the sector in 2022. January 2022 alone saw two Israeli start-ups, 3D-printed plant-based meat developer Redefine Meat and cultivated milk producer Remilk, raise $135.6 million and $120 million, respectively.
"It is essential for the future of our planet that we liberate the food chain from dependency on animals," said Remilk CEO and co-founder Aviv Wolff. "Our mission is bold, and support from these experienced and trusted investors demonstrates the power of Remilk to meet the moment.”
The more groups the better
The SPRC is one of a few new GFI collaboration projects to spring up in the sustainable protein sector in the last few months. November 2022 saw the establishment of the Fungi Protein Association, a supergroup of fungi fermentation companies from around the world, as well as food-tech VCs including the Good Food Institute.
The association represents the interests of its member companies, including advocating for fungi protein in public policy and conducting consumer research.
“The world needs more protein, and fungi fermentation offers a delicious, sustainable way to do just that,” said Marco Bertacca of Quorn Foods, the British company which took the lead on the new international initiative. “We’re excited to partner with our fellow fungi enthusiasts to raise awareness and appreciation of the wonderful ways fungi can improve human health and the health of our planet.”