Alt Protein Project: join the students driving sustainable protein research across Europe

6 February 2023

Our Science and Technology Community Coordinator Martina Helmlinger on the exciting work of the Alt Protein Project and how students can get involved.

the alt protein project chapter in Wageningen attending a lecture

Students across Europe are part of a growing global movement dedicated to turning universities into dynamic engines for sustainable protein innovation, and we have just opened applications for new groups to apply.

The Alt Protein Project is led by students who are passionate about new ways of making meat and are acting as a driving force to bring education and research about plant-based foods, cultivated meat and fermentation to their institutions.

The project is key to building the sustainable protein movement and enables students, with help and support from the Good Food Institute’s experts, to act as catalysts shaping their university’s priorities.

There are nine active European chapters based in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, the UK, Norway and a pan-European community of students across universities, with more than 130 members – and we now want to double the number of groups.

As we invite others to join the project, let’s take a look at the incredible work students across the continent have achieved so far.

Shaping courses

One of the most important aspects of the Alt Protein Project chapters’work is to develop courses introducing fellow students to the world of sustainable proteins, and the opportunities these nascent industries have to offer.

The Alt Protein Fundamentals Programme, originally developed by students from the University of Cambridge group, is now being used by other groups across Europe.

The Norwegian University of Life Science (NMBU) are already launching the second iteration of their version of the course in spring 2023. They have been working closely with their university to make it a permanently offered course. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), too, runs a seven week course based on this programme, and they usually share a plant-based dinner to start off their in-person sessions. Also, Utrecht University’s chapter in the Netherlands is teaching the programme to undergraduate and masters students studying science and business subjects.

Germany’s Bayreuth-Kulmbach chapter developed their own Alternative Proteins: Policies and Regulation course, which is now being offered to all masters students studying Global Food, Nutrition and Health, and the group hopes to offer future courses to a wider group.

Kick starting sustainable protein careers

These chapters also play a key role in building links between academic institutions and Europe’s rapidly growing sustainable protein industry. 

Wageningen’s group hosted an evening featuring speakers from organisations such as the food processing company ADM and alternative seafood startups Esencia Foods and Bluu Seafood, while cultivated meat startups such as Qkine, StemBond, and Animal Alternative Technologies have spoken at the Cambridge University chapter’s events.

NMBU’s chapter brought in Orkla Alternative Proteins to provide an insight into the ingredients and processes used to make their Naturli burgers.

The Cambridge University chapter has recently launched a literature review project in collaboration with the Cornell University chapter in the US, giving students the opportunity to dive into an area of sustainable protein research in collaboration with experts in the field, making valuable contributions to high impact research opportunities. 

The EIT Food group, based in universities across Europe, hosted an event showcasing the many career paths offered by the sustainable protein sector, with speakers from startups Meatable, Libre Foods and Paleo, alongside a cultivated meat researcher and a food law consultant. 

Building the research base

Alt Protein Project chapters are also helping build the community of European researchers working on developing new ways of making meat, dairy and seafood.

The Cambridge group carried out an extensive mapping project to identify and reach out to British academics working in relevant areas, and are now organising a workshop bringing these researchers together, along with UK experts and grant agencies

Other student groups have been mapping the expertise within their own institutions to find opportunities for research, course building and other collaborations. 

Meanwhile, the NMBU chapter is establishing the Food Lab – an innovation platform supported by the university, aiming to stimulate collaboration with industry and the development of new food innovation courses.

The groups also help students explore their interest in becoming the science communicators of tomorrow, helping explain the science of sustainable proteins clearly to the public. Members of the Wageningen group are now broadcasting the third season of their sustainable protein podcast

Bonding over food

Alt Protein Project chapters are also social groups, organising activities to enable students interested in this area to network – often over delicious food. 

The Wageningen group partnered with cultivated meat scaffolding producer Gelatex to host their end-of-year barbecue, while NMBU held a workshop inviting students to create imaginative flavour combinations for plant-based burgers, and students brought an impressive range of dishes to Bayreuth-Kulmbach’s sustainable protein potluck event. The chapter at the University of Oxford organised social events and a picnic for students interested in sustainable proteins. 

Apply to join

If you are interested in becoming part of the global sustainable protein community, receiving mentorship from GFI’s experts, and making your own way in this growing field, we are now accepting applications for new chapters across Europe.

Applications are open until 30 March. If you want to find out more, join our call on 16 February or take a look at our student resource hub to learn about the opportunities and responsibilities involved. If you have any specific questions, get in touch directly with me for a chat. 

Building a sustainable, secure and just food future is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century – I’d love to hear from any students who want to work with us to do that.

Check out some of our other resources for students:


Martina Helmlinger