Background: Research and Innovation for Food System Transformation
Food systems are related to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including malnutrition and obesity, climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and social injustices. To foster transformations towards sustainable and healthy food systems, research and innovation (R&I) efforts can play a key role.
In order to adapt European R&I systems so they can fully support food system transformation, the European Commission launched the ‘FOOD 2030’ R&I policy framework. In particular, this framework supports the uptake of multilevel, cross-sectoral and transdisciplinary R&I efforts across the European Union (EU) in an effort to future-proof food systems through different ways of performing and organising EU food systems’ R&I.
The FIT4FOOD2030 project: lessons and outcomes
In 2017, the FIT4FOOD2030 project was launched. The FIT4FOOD2030 consortium comprised 16 organisations across Europe, representing universities, research funders, technology and innovation platforms, industry networks and science engagement organisations. Its main objective was to create a sustainable, multi-stakeholder FOOD 2030 platform to mobilise a wide variety of European food system stakeholders.
To that end, the project established 25 transformative Labs (building on the concept of Living Labs and Transition Labs) across the EU, that engaged a wide variety of stakeholders in efforts to co-develop or implement new educational modules in science museums, science centres, schools or universities on the local level (City Labs, Food Labs); or to align R&I policies and develop novel policy innovations in on national level (Policy Labs). The project’s EU Think Tank further developed policy recommendations for the European Commission in a series of high-level policy briefs.
The FIT4FOOD2030 Labs organised series of workshops in which they engaged local stakeholders on food systems related topics relevant to their context (e.g. food waste, sustainable agriculture, etcetera). Through that effort they developed vibrant multi-stakeholder networks eager to continue the work on food system transformation, raised awareness on the need for transformation, co-created educational modules, as well as novel R&I programs, funding mechanisms, visions and strategies. For the variety of different impacts and outcomes of the Labs, as well as other outcomes and insights from the project, see this European Commission publication.
The project team supported the work of the Labs through training sessions, continuous learning and reflection activities and by developing practical tools and methodologies that can be used by those engaging in transformation activities.