APP 2024: join the student movement shaping the future of food

From Portugal to Türkiye – students across Europe are taking a leading role in a global movement turning universities into dynamic engines for alternative protein innovation.

6 February 2024

Map showing the Alternative Protein Project (APP) European chapters as of February 2024

From Portugal to Türkiye – students across Europe are taking a leading role in a global movement turning universities into dynamic engines for alternative protein innovation.

The Alt Protein Project (APP) provides a platform for students who are passionate about changing our food system and want to act as a driving force to bring education and research about plant-based, cultivated meat and fermentation-based food to their institutions.

There are now 15 active European chapters – up from nine last year – and as we open the doors to invite others to join, let’s look at some of the incredible work they have already achieved.

Shaping courses to teach the researchers of the future

Over the last year, APP chapters have become increasingly involved in developing courses introducing fellow students to the world of alternative proteins.

The EIT Food group, based across Europe, helped introduce an alternative protein focus within the organisation’s protein diversification masters programme, available at the universities of Hohenheim in Germany, Turin in Italy, Reading in the UK, Warsaw in Poland, Lund in Sweden and Aarhus in Denmark. The group based at Aarhus University also collaborated with EA Denmark to develop a five-week course providing a basic introduction to alternative proteins.

The Norwegian University for Life Sciences group is now currently working closely with the institution to create master programmes focusing on alternative proteins, as well as a dedicated innovation space.

Students at the Wageningen University and Research group in the Netherlands also helped design a new course focusing on alternative proteins, bringing the university’s curriculum up to date. And, after the Dutch government invested €60 million in building a cultivated meat and precision fermentation ecosystem, members have also contributed to the education section of the project’s dossier. 

The Alt Protein Fundamentals Programme, originally developed by students from the University of Cambridge group, is being used by other groups across Europe and the United States, and is now being considered for accreditation within the institution’s own curriculum.

Building the network

As the nascent alternative protein community grows, another important role is to bring networks of scientists, entrepreneurs, and students together, building connections between academia and industry.

The EIT group used a GFI grant to hold an education programme where students could learn about plant-based cheese, enabling them to taste products for themselves, hear from those working in startups, and visit Copenhagen’s FÆRM. The sessions led to the team developing new members and even producing a briefing paper about overcoming sensory challenges, while some startups said they received applications from students following the event. 

Other groups have also been involved in different activities aimed at building communities. 

The EPFL group, based at France’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, organised an event with speakers from ProVeg, plant-based companies, and one of the university’s own researchers which was attended by around 200 students. 

The Lisbon group attended the first international conference run by CellAgri Portugal, providing information about their activities to delegates. Meanwhile, the group, which includes researchers who had been involved in a GFI-funded project to develop a cultivated fish fillet, presented prototypes at an event organised by EIT Food.

And Türkiye’s Yeditepe group introduced their chapter and provided a brief overview of alternative proteins in a sustainable development lecture led by the university’s Associate Professor of Food Engineering Özlem Güçlü Üstündağ.

Not all work, work, work

Social events aimed at cementing these relationships and providing a space for like-minded students to discuss alternative proteins are another important function.

These range from the UCL chapter’s speaker event, which featured registered dietician and group member Brittany Cucchiaro talking about the nutritional benefits of plant-based diets, to the Bayrueth-Kulmbach group’s movie night celebrating ‘one of the oldest and most prominent alternative protein sources’.

Many of these events provide opportunities to bond over delicious food, such as DTU’s tasting event, trying MATR Foods’s fermentation-based meat with a taco/wrap bar, and EPFL’s ‘Meat The Future’ event featuring author Tobias Leenaert followed by a sampling session. Yeditepe’s group also took part in the university’s World Food Day event, featuring an information table, food trivia and alternative protein prizes.

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 29 March, or if you want to find out more, take a look at our student resource hub to learn about what’s involved, join our information session on 15 February, or if you have any specific questions, get in touch directly with me for a chat. 

I’d love to hear from any students who want to work with us in our mission to build a sustainable, secure and just food future.

If you’re a student or educator interested in alternative proteins, find out about resources, careers and courses.

Author

Seren Kell, GFI Europe science and technology manager

Seren Kell Senior Science and Technology Manager

Seren works with scientists to develop, fund and promote open-source research on sustainable proteins.