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The FOSTER project builds the foundation for a new Knowledge and Innovation System, integrating heterogeneous perspectives for an inclusive and well-governed European food system.

Background & objectives
FOSTER aims to broaden the knowledge foundation from which a new Knowledge and Innovation (K&I) governance structure for Europe’s food system can emerge. This new structure is needed because the current K&I system is insufficient to address the emerging challenges of nourishing Europe in a healthy and sustainable way. While great progress in satisfying food demand has been made over the past decades, growing awareness of the implications for health and environment of the current system, and of how these interact with society, call for a new approach to food-related K&I.  

This needs to be underpinned by enhanced governance that draws on food system science in combination with other forms of knowledge, among them practitioners’ experiential knowledge and citizen science. A transdisciplinary approach to working together with ‘un-usual’ sparring partners can help academically-affiliated knowledge providers (i.e. universities and research institutions) to co-create together with practitioners, citizens, citizen scientists and policymakers the required new, broadened knowledge foundation. 

In FOSTER, we will focus on, and experiment with, new ways to identify and overcome barriers to integrating epistemologically diverse knowledges, and to harness existing knowledge and capacity building, amongst others by adopting and promoting integrated food systems thinking, closely linked to citizen-led initiatives and horizon scanning, and linking up these various efforts with strong policy interactions.

To gain insight into how Europe’s knowledge and innovation system can be adapted to become more inclusive and to enhance its governance, FOSTER will develop a two-track approach: 

  1. Exploring and exploiting leverage points identified on the basis of prior knowledge
  2. Conducting research to identify context-specific leverage points, building on the emic view of stakeholders in combination with the etic view of FOSTER researchers

To this end, FOSTER will build a team to work in a highly inter- and transdisciplinary manner comprising 18 partners. These include researchers from various pertinent disciplines (agriculture, food systems, food technology, economics, social sciences, the humanities, consumer science, citizen science), and “everyday experts”, i.e. non-academically affiliated experts from selected national citizen-driven initiatives in Europe.

Athena’s role
The team from the Athena Institute is holding a diversity of roles within the FOSTER project, namely, scientific coordination, reflexive monitoring as well as developing the assessment of the needs and knowledge gaps of the involved citizen driven initiatives.

Project details