The vision of Europe's food industry
A cornerstone of Europe's research policy is ensuring that the EU becomes a world leader in key technology areas, and several initiatives have been developed to make that goal a reality. European Technology Platforms (ETP), one such initiative, are industry led platforms aimed at aligning EU research priorities with the needs of industry. The importance of Europe's agro-food industry, both in terms of size and stature, easily lent itself to the establishment of an ETP, resulting in the launch of the Food for Life ETP in 2005. Food for Life recently released its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) meant to guide technology development in Europe's agro-industries.
Food for Life was inaugurated under the auspices of the European Commission and the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the European Union (CIAA). Three phases were identified from the outset for this particular Technology Platform. Each phase would culminate in a report that would contribute to an eventual roadmap, help pool resources at national and EU level, and galvanise support from private and venture capital.
The first report, 'ETP Food for Life Vision for 2020 and Beyond', was published in 2005 and provided an overarching future strategy. The second and most recent, 'ETP Strategic Research Agenda', was launched on 13 September 2007 at a gathering of some 200 opinion leaders, public authorities, academics and industry representatives.
The report outlines priority themes for research. It provided the ideal discussion springboard for the conference, which focused on defining priorities and setting specific actions to strengthen innovation processes, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness across the European food chain. It also outlined six key challenges foreseen in the near future for the industry:
- Ensuring that the healthy choice is the easy choice for consumers,
- Delivering a healthy diet,
- Developing quality food products,
- Assuring safe foods that consumers can trust,
- Achieving sustainable food production, and
- Managing the food chain.
The third report is due to be published in 2008. This final implementation plan will outline the activities required to achieve the Food for Life vision and strategy. The roadmap created by all three milestones will have achieved the objective of effective cooperation under the umbrella of a coherent agenda for European research.
'The level of enthusiasm and interest from all stakeholders of the ETP Food for Life has continued to increase, and this is reflected in the outstanding attendance at this year's conference,' said ETP Board Chairman Peter van Bladeren.
Food for Life is one of some 25 ETPs supported by the European Commission to promote innovation in Europe. The size, nature and regional importance of the agro-food industry necessitated the inclusion of a dedicated agro-food ETP.
Its bold aim is to achieve nothing less than add "life to years" by studying the links between diet and brain activity, immune and intestinal functions, and metabolic function. The ETP also seeks to identify ways of building consumer trust in the food chain through greater transparency in product design, and through the identification and promotion of best practices.
For further information: Food for Life