Quadram Institute secures funding to support food and nutrition start-ups

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15 Mar 2019 --- UK-based Quadram Institute Bioscience (QIB) has secured funding from The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Food. The investment is part of the €46.4 million funding the EIT has received from Horizon 2020 (the EU’s research and innovation framework program and partner contributions) to support its mission to transform the agrifood system by investing in innovative projects. The start-ups to benefit from the financial support are Quisper, a personalized nutrition services platform, and Seafeed, a developer of fermented seaweed-based novel feed additives.

QIB seeks to bring about a new era for food and health research, working at the interface between food science, gut biology and health. It seeks to develop solutions to worldwide challenges in food-related disease and human health, with a focus from establishing optimum health at birth through to ensuring aging healthily. 

EIT is an independent EU body that seeks to support innovators, entrepreneurs and students in developing solutions that may accelerate innovation and create social change and new work opportunities within Europe. 

The 2019 EIT Food investment round will go towards supporting its partner network which includes over 50 food industry organizations and universities and more than 50 “Rising Food Stars” agrifood start-ups. The Horizon 2020 funds will be invested in EIT Food’s diverse innovation ecosystem, including projects in the areas of start-ups (€6.8m), food system education (€7.8m), innovation projects creating marketable products and services (€25.6m) and public engagement (€5.2m).

Click to EnlargePaul M Finglas, Head of Food Databanks National Capability and Research Leader in Food & Health, Quadram Institute Bioscience

“We were delighted that EIT Food chose to support the project following up on what had already been achieved in our previous EU-funded project (QualiFY) as this is a really important topic for consumers,” Paul Finglas, QIB Research Leader in Food & Health tells NutritionInsight.

“The EIT funding offers the opportunity for start-ups to partner with academic researchers on various food, nutrition and health innovation projects aimed at changing consumer behavior to more healthy diets, which makes it a very exciting project,” says Finglas.

The EIT Food supported Quisper Project will receive part of the QIB funding. The Belgian start-up is developing and testing a digital platform that will offer personalized nutrition services within Europe.

“There are numerous apps and platforms on the market offering personalized nutrition solutions to consumers, but many lack scientific validation leading to inappropriate dietary recommendations to consumers and a potential lack of trust on their part. Quisper offers a route for developers to improve their personalized nutrition offerings through a single portal with added scientific validation,” Finglas notes.

Quisper says it has developed an app that allows businesses to connect with independent and scientifically validated services designed for use by companies, healthcare services, researchers and professionals who want to provide improved personalized nutrition advice.

“We are in the second year of funding from EIT Food, and we are testing the platform with several case studies with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) both within and external EIT Food,” Finglas says.

In collaboration with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) & the University of Reading, QIB will support the endeavor by creating an independent scientific advisory board, supply data and knowledge rules and set up the scientific advisory principles that will govern the platform.

“We have been developing the personalized nutrition platform from a previous EU FP7 project (FP7 is previous to the Horizon 2020 EU program) so are now using EIT funding to refine and integrate and test existing personalized nutrition solutions from SMEs using harmonized knowledge rules and data,” Finglas says.

“Quisper offers personalized nutrition companies the opportunity to link their existing services through the platform and validate their knowledge rules, algorithms and data.  We aim to create a personalized nutrition marketplace where providers can work with researchers and other users,” he explains.

The second project to receive QIB’s support is Seafeed, which is developing feed additives with fermented seaweed as the base material. Seafeed is led by Icelandic food and biotech R&D institute Matís Ltd. and produces bioactive ingredients for feeds from seaweed biomass through microbial fermentation.

Multiple combinations of seaweed processing and fermented bacteria have previously been explored. EIT Food aims to support the upscaling of the fermentation process and assess the benefits of the seaweed and bacteria formulation when used as a supplement to fish feed. 

QIB will provide support via its expertise and facilities for assessing prebiotic functionality. Additionally, QIB will conduct detailed metagenomic and metabolomic analysis of the fish gut microbiome to help choose the most beneficial microbial components.

By Kristiana Lalou

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