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Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-Singapore Future Foods Research Programme
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- Who got funded
Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-Singapore Future Foods Research Programme
MBIE has announced four successful proposals for a $12 million investment in future foods in Singapore.
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Under the Government-wide New Zealand-Singapore Enhanced Partnership, the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), have jointly announced the launch of the New Zealand-Singapore Bilateral Research Programme on Future Foods.
New Zealand-Singapore Enhanced Partnership(external link)
Agency for Science, Technology and Research(external link)
The Programme has been co-developed to:
- support and encourage the development and exchange of scientific strengths and capabilities between both countries’ research communities;
- catalyse benefits from each other’s global connections to cutting edge science; and
- create a research programme which produces a holistic, end-to-end research project, where developments are systematically shared and built upon.
The New Zealand research teams were able to apply for up to $3 million over 3 years, with the Singapore research partners eligible for approximately equivalent funding. Based on the independent recommendations of a combined panel of international and domestic experts, MBIE and A*STAR jointly selected 4 proposals which centred on a fundamental technical problem or challenge and had a novel technical application in future foods, with scientific research into non-animal food protein across mutual priority areas at their core. We received 10 proposals in total from a wide variety of collaborating research organisations, showing a promising foundation for future initiatives. The New Zealand investment totals about $11.8 million (excluding GST) over 3 years.
|Lead NZ organisation||Project title|
|AgResearch Limited||Cooking and processing of seaweed to improve consumer acceptance, protein digestion and nutrient bioavailability|
|Massey University||Te Rangahau Taha Wheako mō ngā Kai o Āpōpō: The Consumer Dimension of Future Foods|
|The Cawthron Institute||Realising the value of algae as a source of alternative protein|
|The University of Auckland||Understanding the interactions between plant-based protein and cellular agriculture|
Together with the Catalyst: Strategic – NZ-Singapore Data Science Research Programme, these funding commitments are New Zealand’s largest ever single investment in a bilateral science partnership with another country. The successful projects will help lead to the creation of new and world-leading knowledge and contribute to the overarching objective of accelerating the development of data science and future foods capabilities in both Singapore and New Zealand.
Catalyst: Strategic is one of the 4 funding streams within the Catalyst Fund. The Catalyst Fund supports activities that initiate, develop and foster collaborations building on international science and innovation for New Zealand’s benefit.
Public statements of funded projects
Cooking and processing of seaweed to improve consumer acceptance, protein digestion and nutrient bioavailability
Is seaweed the new ‘Super Food’?
People around the world have eaten seaweed for centuries. But why isn’t this seaweed, easily grown in the sea and rich in important nutrients, a popular staple in our diets? In part, this is because many of the nutrients in seaweed are locked inside of the seaweed, making them inaccessible to our bodies after we eat this food. However, with the right type of cooking and processing, seaweed can provide not only micronutrients, but also proteins with possible health benefits and in a great tasting food product. That’s why researchers across New Zealand and in Singapore want to know if cooking or simple processing of seaweeds, like the Undaria species abundant in the waters around these countries, can help provide the nutrients needed part of a healthy diet. If nutrients, like proteins, can easily be released from within the seaweed structure, seaweed could be a tasty, digestible, healthy and sustainably produced protein source to feed a growing world population. This research will create new knowledge about digestion, nutritional availability, flavour and health benefits of Undaria seaweed from NZ and Singapore, as a whole food. We will explore how these attributes can be modulated through cooking technologies, to create a promising alternative whole food protein source that will offer benefits to NZ and Singaporean consumers.
NZ project team contacts:
- Dr Linda Samuelsson (Science Leader) | AgResearch Limited
- Dr David Everett (Key Researcher) | AgResearch Limited
- Dr Elizabeth Rettedal (Key Researcher) | AgResearch Limited
- Dr Stephen Haines (Key Researcher) | AgResearch Limited
- Dr Alastair Ross (Key Researcher) | AgResearch Limited
- Dr Santanu Deb-Choudhury (Key Researcher) | AgResearch Limited
- Dr Amber Milan (Key Researcher) | AgResearch Limited
- Associate Professor David Burritt (Key Researcher) | University of Otago
- Dr Katja Schweikert (Key Researcher) | University of Otago
Te Rangahau Taha Wheako mō ngā Kai o Āpōpō: The Consumer Dimension of Future Foods
Finding solutions to curb global issues such as climate-change and diet-related disease presents major challenges for scientists. Consuming less animal protein and eating predominantly plant-based diets are heralded as the single biggest levers to optimise health and environmental sustainability. However, despite increasing consumer concern for global sustainability, their health, and animal welfare, alternative proteins have only had narrow appeal for today’s discerning consumers. There is limited understanding of the contradiction wherein consumers express a desire to adjust their food choices to promote more sustainable diets and lifestyles, yet do not make this transition in a meaningful way.
This research will understand the key issues impacting the consumer’s evolving relationship with non-animal protein, to ensure science and industry innovation can focus on efforts developing foods consumers want to adopt routinely in their diet. The research will determine the relative importance consumers ascribe to issues like sustainability, health, animal-ethics and attitudes to food processing, alongside sensory appeal of alternative proteins. We will identify barriers to adopting sustainable and healthy plant-based diets and provide guidance to producers on how to encourage consumers to embrace alternative protein. Further, as NZ’s primary industries respond to global environmental trends, our research will generate insights that inform viable alternative land use decisions and consumer awareness of the unique value proposition of our Māori food producers underpinned by their strengths of relationship building, storytelling and holistic approaches to managing the land. The project will also support Singapore’s goal to produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030. The project brings together internationally renowned consumer sensory scientists, Professor Joanne Hort (Massey University, NZ), Associate Professor Ciaran Forde (Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation, A*STAR), and nutrition scientist Dr Meika Foster (Edible Research, NZ) in a new partnership, alongside a team of research scientists and industry partners across NZ and Singapore, providing a consumer-led approach to ensuring the success of future alternative proteins.
The collaboration facilitates research with consumers from different ethnic groups and belief systems, capturing different motivations and potential consumption barriers for existing and emerging alternative proteins. In addition to generating new insights, the project provides valuable training opportunities in Consumer Sensory Science to meet the regional shortfall in this expertise in Singapore and NZ. The current collaborative activity will strengthen newly-developed research links in Consumer Sensory Science between Asia and NZ that expand beyond the goals of the current joint-research to form a critical mass of expertise for consumer-led insights into Future Foods.
NZ project team contacts:
- Professor Joanne Hort (Science Leader) | Massey University
- Dr Meika Foster (Science Leader) | Edible Research Ltd
Realising the value of algae as a source of alternative protein
In today’s world, there is demand for alternatives to meat and dairy for nutrition. These so-called “alternative proteins” can be produced more sustainably, with lower environmental impact, less ethical concern and greater health benefits. Algae are a class of plants which include both single-celled micro-organisms and seaweeds, and are one promising source of ingredients for future foods. However, research is required to establish the viability of processing algae into protein-rich food ingredients with high nutritious value. Also, the properties of these extracts during food manufacture and how they interact with the digestive system and their effects on health must be understood.
This research will investigate two types of algae to meet these needs. The NZ native seaweed, karengo, is a traditional food of Māori. It is similar to nori but with distinct characteristics. The microalga, Chlorella, is produced internationally, but currently used primarily as a health supplement. Both types of algae have high protein content, but require an innovative approach to realise their full nutritious potential. The composition of the algae will be investigated. An extraction process will be developed for protein yield and ability to implement future commercial-scale production. How the extracts perform during food manufacturing will be assessed, as well as how readily the proteins are digested and absorbed when eaten. Finally, the health-promoting effects of the extracts will be examined.
The team comprises a unique collaboration between four of NZ’s research organisations - Cawthron Institute (biology of algae), Riddet Institute (a Centre of Excellence in food research), University of Auckland (food science) and Plant & Food Research (plant extraction and food science and technology). They will collaborate with two of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) institutes; Bioprocessing Technology Institute and Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation. Industry partners are Wakatū Incorporation and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. Resources and capabilities will be pooled so as to maximise synergies.
This research complements additional capabilities being developed for sustainable algal production and food nutrition within the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge. Ultimately the research will enable the development of novel nutritious and health-promoting manufactured foods that create value from NZ’s unique bioresources, and help diversify its primary production. It will also help build Singapore’s food security and its high-tech food manufacturing sector.
Direct further enquires to the Communications Manager, Cawthron Institute, Nelson.
NZ project team contacts:
- Dr Tom Wheeler (Science Leader) | The Cawthron Institute
- Distinguished Professor Harjinder Singh (Senior Science Advisor) |Riddet Institute, Massey University
- Dr Anant Dave (Key Researcher) | Riddet Institute, Massey University
- Professor Siew-Young Quek (Key Researcher) | The University of Auckland
- Dr Lee Huffman (Key Researcher) | Plant and Food Research
Understanding the interactions between plant-based protein and cellular agriculture
Protein is an integral component of the human diet. With a growing concern over food security and increasing concerns regarding the environmental impacts of traditional agriculture, alternative methods of protein production are being investigated. Plant derived protein food products are rapidly increasing in popularity. The future of food is envisaged to include a variety of protein-rich foods for consumers, including those produced by culturing livestock cells in fermenters (termed cellular agriculture). As we increase the repertoire of protein-rich foods available, new hybrid foods will also emerge, offering increased consumer choice and personalized foods for those with particular dietary needs.
This research is focused on exploring and understanding the interactions between plant proteins (soy bean and pea) and cultured livestock cells (including cattle, sheep, deer and pig), since this is central to developing successful hybrid foods. Our first research objective will be to combine these two protein sources to produce hybrid food matrices. As a high-value ingredient, we hypothesize cultured livestock cells will improve the flavour, nutrition, appearance, and processability of plant protein foods, which we will test. The ability to specifically control the cell culture environment will be explored as a method to alter the nutritional profile of livestock cells, for example so that they can be tailored to meet dietary requirements of particular consumers.
If the future food ecosystem is to effectively include a variety of methods of food production (e.g. traditional agriculture, indigenous knowledge, plant protein crops and cellular agriculture), connectivity and sustainable use of by-products is essential. This will be explored in our second objective, specifically the utilization of plant protein and traditional agriculture by-products (soybean residues, spent grain among others) as feedstocks and media ingredients for large-scale cellular agriculture. Current limitations of cellular agriculture include the high cost of growth media ingredients and the reliance on expensive and variable animal products.
As new protein foods come close to being ready for market, reliable technical and scientific data is essential to inform regulatory bodies and policy-makers about safety and efficacy. In this project, we will develop this relationship, drawing on New Zealand and International expertise.
NZ project team contacts:
- Laura Domigan (Science Leader) | The University of Auckland
- Renwick Dobson (Key Researcher) | University of Canterbury
- Warren McNabb (Key Researcher) | Riddet Institute, Massey University
- Sophia Rodrigues (Key Researcher) | The University of Auckland
|October 2020||Projects begin|
|December 2023||Projects conclude|
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.