GFI Alternative Protein Research Grants Program

Deadline Date: May 23, 2024

Donor Name: Good Food Institute

Grant Size: $100,000 to $500,000

Good Food Institute is currently accepting proposals for its Alternative protein research grants programme aimed at tackling urgent scientific and technological challenges within the alternative protein industry.

They support early to mid-stage research proposals, corresponding to a technology readiness level (TRL) of 1-6. Up to 3.4MM USD is allocated for Field Catalyst awards across three priority areas. Field Catalyst Grants offer targeted funding for high-priority scientific and technological topics, typically spanning no more than 24 months and $250,000. 

Focus Areas

  • Priority A: Upcycled plant proteins
    • Improve the functionality of known food industry sidestreams using emerging processing methods/technology, calculated sidestream volume, and limited economic assessment.
    • Current challenge
      • The food manufacturing sector is responsible for 39% of food losses. Accordingly, the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) includes SDG Target 12.3: “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.” One strategy to reduce losses during food manufacturing includes valorizing whole crops and processes for human consumption. These innovative approaches align with the principles of a circular bioeconomy, wherein resources traditionally treated as waste products are instead reclaimed, converted, and valorized into new materials.
    • Proposed solution
      • For this proposal, sidestream optimization should focus on all three of the following: 
        • Identifying a promising sidestream from a food manufacturing process that has preliminary evidence as a viable alternative protein ingredient;
        • Optimizing raw material processing using emerging methods to improve the yield and quality of one or multiple ingredients;
        • Developing volume and economic models for optimized processes.
    • Successful proposals must articulate:
      • Which sidestream raw material and emerging processing techniques they plan to use;
      • What preliminary research has been conducted with their proposed raw material and processing techniques;
      • How they will conduct a production volume calculation of the sidestream raw material;
      • How they will conduct an economic assessment of their process, highlighting bottlenecks that could be improved;
      • (Optional, but encouraged) How they will apply this sidestream ingredient to an end-product prototype.
  • Priority B: Next-gen fermentation downstream processing
    • Sustainable and low-cost approaches for downstream food protein isolation from precision fermentation biomanufacturing.
    • Current challenge
      • In the past decade, precision fermentation approaches have been adopted for food ingredient protein biomanufacturing. This advance has increased the demand for high-volume production of precision fermentation (PF)-derived proteins cost-effectively and sustainably. Process innovation and improvement of upstream fermentation process steps, such as higher productivity and titer, can increase the techno-economic footing of precision fermentation-derived products.
    • Proposed solution
      • A proposed solution to reduce the cost and increase the sustainability of precision fermentation-derived DSP would be to develop novel approaches for protein isolation and drying that improve the unit economics. Current chromatography and TFF strategies for food protein purification are effective but costly and resource-intensive. Innovations are required to improve or replace these unit operations in DSP at a commercial scale (in facilities producing food ingredient proteins via PF, >400m3). Such solutions could be novel single-capture step affinity-chromatography technologies, filtration equipment architectures, novel separations substrates/materials, biochemistry solutions that substantially improve separation/isolation, or a combination thereof. Solutions in the space should work with precision fermentation meat protein ingredients with various biophysical properties.
    • Successful proposals must articulate:
      • The BioMRL status of the project;
      • A solution for the fermentation-derived alternative protein space that specifically offers an innovation in precision fermentation downstream processing for food;
      • An optimized, adapted, or novel unit operation for DSP in the form of equipment, consumables (e.g., filtration architecture, fluidics), materials (e.g., membrane, filter substrates, affinity molecules), or hybrid biological/chemical/engineering solution (e.g., precipitation);
      • The proposed demonstration/development/engineering of the technology as it specifically relates to food protein DSP for fermentation-derived alternative meat proteins;
      • How this approach will significantly improve the unit economics over current DSP systems, such as a model of electrical and water consumption per kg of isolated protein for a projected large-scale solution to justify the potential to substantially improve DSP;
      • The path to scaling the solution to commercial-scale bioprocess unit operations for food ingredient production. The risks to scaling should be acknowledged, and mitigation strategies should be included in the proposal. 
  • Priority C: Hydrolysates for cultivated meat
    • Optimize raw material processing and characterization to enable lower-cost and higher-performing hydrolysate ingredients for cultivated meat media. 
    • Current challenge
      • Amino acids used in cell culture media currently come primarily from individual fermentation processes, only some of which are produced at a sufficient scale to service a future cultivated meat industry producing millions of metric tons. Even when scaling their production, amino acids sourced in this way are projected to be a major cost driver of cultivated meat production.
    • Proposed solution
      • Proposed advances and areas of focus to answer open questions may fall along various processing stages, such as raw material selection and preparation, hydrolysis, heat application, filtration, purification, and end-product characterization. Some examples of open questions that are attractive to interrogate include: 
        • Which raw materials offer the best cell culture media nutrition, performance, cost, sustainability, and consistency? 
        • How can hydrolysis enzymes and protocol parameters be optimized to achieve a desirable degree of hydrolysis and nutrient availability? 
        • How can undesirable anti-nutritional or growth inhibitory factors be identified and minimized? 
        • How can batch-to-batch variability and QA/QC burden be lowered? 
        • Which methods for filtration, purification, and characterization are most fit-for-purpose for cultivated meat? 
        • Which processes will be most suitable for scaled production with acceptable cost profiles for cultivated meat? 
    • Successful proposals must articulate:
      • The raw materials for testing and a justification for why they were selected, ideally including reference to relevant cell type and/or species’ metabolic requirements;
      • The hypothesis for how the proposed solution will enable lower-cost and higher-performing hydrolysate ingredients suitable for commercial-scale production;
      • The experimental approach for testing the performance of the various hydrolysates in cells relevant to cultivated meat manufacturing (see here for cells and species of highest interest);
      • Any controls or comparators that will be used; 
      • Any limitations or uncertainties in the devised approach; 
      • How costs, energy use, or other resource utilization could be improved or will otherwise be affected compared to existing practices for hydrolysate production.

Funding Information

  • Total funding available: $3.4MM
  • Funding amount per project: Up to 250,000 USD with up to 50,000 USD additional funding for projects partnering with researchers and/or industry stakeholders not previously engaged in alternative protein research.
  • Project duration: Up to 24 months

Ineligible Funding

  • Insect farming or insect-based foods. Projects focused on insect tissue culture may be acceptable, provided the project outputs are directly applicable to improving the sensory properties, cost, or scale of the plant-based, fermentation-derived, and cultivated meat industries.
  • Human subject research. Projects that involve trained sensory panels as one part of the project may be acceptable if the purpose of that analysis is to test the sensory aspects of a new ingredient, process, or product developed as part of an eligible project.
  • They recognize there is a tremendous need for research in social sciences, economics, environmental science, public policy, law, marketing, etc., but this program is specifically focused on scientific and technical research. Therefore, we are not currently inviting proposals with a sole focus on market research, consumer preference studies, life cycle analyses, and similar types of research.
  • Proteins specifically targeting egg or dairy alternatives. We recognize that some proposals may include technologies that have cross-applicability to egg/dairy proteins, however, we expect proposals to focus on meat-relevant application cases.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Submissions are open to applicants from all sectors worldwide, encompassing academia, government, industry, and nonprofits. GFI strongly encourages women and gender minorities, racial and ethnic minorities, and other individuals under-represented in the alternative protein industry to apply for funding through this RFP. 
  • Graduate students or postdoctoral researchers are eligible to lead the proposed project, contingent upon the inclusion of a Letter of Commitment signed by a faculty member from the student or postdoc’s higher education institution. This Letter of Commitment should: 
    • explicitly affirm the faculty member’s commitment to act as a collaborator and advisor for the project, 
    • confirm the proposed research will have access to the necessary laboratory facilities,
    • If the applicant is a student, include the current aims of their dissertation (completed and planned) and describe how the proposed research project contributes to it.
  • GFI enthusiastically invites proposals from scientists who are new to the alternative protein field or have not previously received funding from GFI. However, we also welcome proposals from researchers who have previously received a GFI grant award. GFI will not fund efforts exceeding 100% FTE (full-time equivalent) for any personnel.
  • Investigators may be included as key personnel in multiple proposal submissions, but are limited to serving as the Principal Investigator on one proposal per RFP.

For more information, visit GFI.

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