Access keys

Skip to content Accessibility Home News, events and publications Site map Search Privacy policy Help Contact us Terms of use

Priming Food Partnerships: Addressing challenges faced by the UK's food and drink industry

Copyright: 5PH, Thinkstock
News from: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
News from: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
News from: Economic and Social Research Council
News from: Medical Research Council

Three new multidisciplinary projects involving collaborations between academic and industry partners have been recommended for funding of a share of £1M to carry out research to stimulate technological advances that can deliver healthy nutrition for consumers.

The grants were funded by the Research Councils UK's ‘Priming Food Partnerships’ initiative which is supported by four councils: BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC and ESRC. The initiative supports pre-competitive research, with the ultimate aim of stimulating innovative research and technological advances of relevance to the food industry.

A ‘Sandpit’ event was held in September 2016 and was attended by 15 companies from across the food supply chain as well as 24 academics from 19 different UK research organisations. The three-day event fostered transdisciplinary partnerships across the food supply chain and stimulated the development of innovative research projects that address challenges faced by the food and drink industry.

The projects which have secured investment will develop models of digestion to inform the design of novel food products, generate multidisciplinary approaches to developing high-protein foods for healthy ageing, and investigate the effects of reducing the fat content of foods on feelings of ‘fullness’.

Speaking on behalf of Research Councils UK, BBSRC Chief Executive, Professor Melanie Welham said: “Food manufacturing is the UK’s single largest manufacturing sector. The food and drink supply chain is a major part of the UK economy, accounting for 7% of GDP, employing 3.7M people, and generating £80Bn per year (ref 1).

The Research Councils play a vital role in priming relationships between interdisciplinary research and UK industry working across the food supply chain. We are delighted that some of the UK’s most forward thinking companies and researchers have come together to develop innovative research projects to address the challenges faced by the UK’s food and drink industry; and we hope that this initiative will grow, in turn leading to more partnership working between academia and industry.”

Professor Stephen Parry, Chair of Knowledge Transfer Network food sector group and member of the Priming Food Partnership panel of experts said: “The priming food partnership initiative is the culmination of ground-breaking work across industry, research councils and the academic community. It builds on the pre-competitive vision for the UK's food and drink industries and other initiatives placing emphasis across the whole food system. I hope and believe this is the start of new opportunities for ongoing collaboration between the food industry and academia delivering truly innovative research.”

Prof Ian Noble, UK Agri Food Tech Leadership Council said: “The UK’s Food System plays a vital role in nurturing our environment, our society and our economy, including as it does our largest manufacturing sector and contributing over £110Bn (GVA) to the UK. Establishing innovative, pre-competitive business – academic partnerships to address the new challenges and opportunities in our food system is essential and the Priming Food Partnerships is a great initiative to catalyse the new connections and cutting edge science needed to lead this agenda globally, which the UK is well placed to do.

I look forwards to seeing this initiative build, strengthen and grow the UK’s food system scientific leadership, inspiring others to engage and contribute through dissemination events.”

Jacinta George, Director Wellbeing technology Acceleration, Mondelēz International said: “This is a seminal moment in partnership between UK academia, Research Councils, the Knowledge Transfer Network and the food industry that I am delighted Mondelez has been a part of. We identified grand challenges together and through the facilitation of BBSRC and KTN have developed research programs to address which will help us all make progress faster. I am confident this will be a model for future collaborations.”

Representing smaller, significant industry players, Tori Green of Bradgate Bakery added: “As a business that designs, develops and manufactures product solutions, we recognise that we cannot address the challenges our industry faces alone. The Food Priming Partnership offers a unique opportunity for industry and academia to share insights, different perspectives and explore these challenges together. It will be exciting to see how each industry player turns this pre-competitive research into something that benefits not just the consumer, but the wider food community too, and where the UK is seen to pioneer food R&D that inspires the next generation of innovation across the global food community.”

Priming Food Partnerships projects

Principal investigator Research organisation Title Value Industry partners
Professor Gary Frost Imperial College London Developing multiscale models of digestion to enable targeted product solutions for nutrition and metabolic health £345,808 Nestle, Mondelez, PepsiCo, pladis
Professor Emma Stevenson Newcastle University Protein for Life: Towards a Focused Dietary Framework for Healthy Ageing £419,970 Campden BRI, Bradgate Bakery, Branston, Mondelez, Nestle, pladis, Premier Foods, Sainsbury’s
Dr Lisa Methven University of Reading The Mouth-Gut-Brain Model £343,965 Unilever, Arla, Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, Pepsico, pladis, Premier Foods



  1. Food Matters: Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £473 million in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.


UK Research and Innovation Media Office

Tags: ageing nutrition health human health funding BBSRC press release