EIT Food has announced the final list of initiatives that will be awarded EURO 6.17m of funding as part of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Call for Innovation projects. The Call was designed to fast-track product or service solutions that could have a significant and immediate impact to the challenges brought about by COVID-19 on the agrifood sector.
The funding is being awarded to 13 projects in total, made up from consortia representing 52 global organisations. Lead organisations include the Technical University of Munich (TUM) from Germany, INL from Portugal, SwissDeCode from Switzerland, Wasteless from Israel, UNIBO from Italy, Matis from Iceland, Rikolto from Belgium, UCSC from Italy, Queen's University Belfast from Northern Ireland, and SmartWithFood from Belgium.
As part of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT)’s Crisis Response Initiative, this activity directly contributes to the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the leadership of EIT, EIT Food and its other Knowledge Innovation Communities (KICs) have been able to deploy these COVID-19 Response Calls at an unprecedented speed, ensuring that industries across Europe are being supported in their time of need.
The COVID-19 Rapid Response Call for Innovation was launched in May 2020 alongside the COVID-19 Bridge Fund, which was designed to support startups that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. The total available amount awarded to EIT Food is EUR 10.25 million for both funding opportunities. Implementation of projects started in early July 2020, a mere 6 weeks after the call was launched.
The COVID-19 Rapid Response Call for Innovation focuses on supporting three food system specific challenges that EIT Food is currently tackling:
Improved Nutrition (EURO 2.05 million awarded to 5 projects in total)
- MediCo-Health, a project supported by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) from Germany and UNITO (University of Turin) from Italy, has been awarded EURO 238,750 of funds to conduct research at hospitals in Italy and Germany into whether deficiencies in micronutrients such as zinc, selenium and vitamin D have a correlation with the severity of disease in COVID-19 patients. The aim is then to test tailored supplementation in placebo-controlled trials to see if they can improve patient outcomes
- Other projects that have been awarded funds in the Improved Nutrition category are: ImmunoBoost (EURO 260,064 awarded), CovidX (EURO 615,940 awarded), SPIN (EURO 410, 932 awarded) and Mtching COVID (EURO 529,915 awarded).
Supply Chain Disruption (EURO 2.18 million awarded to 5 projects in total)
- FRIENDS Reduce Food Waste, by Wasteless from Israel and NX-Food from Germany, aims to implement the usage of dynamic pricing technology to reduce food waste by up to 40%, ensure smoother supply of perishable goods and bring fairer prices to consumers in 40 branches of a German supermarket chain. The project has been awarded EURO 702,500.
- Other projects that have been awarded funds in the Supply Chain Disruption category are: Robin Food (EURO 553,700 awarded), Smart-ET (EURO 276,202 awarded), Safelivery (EURO 466,586 awarded) and Healthtricious (EURO 173,750 awarded).
Food Safety Risks (EURO 1.94 million awarded to 3 projects in total)
- COVICOAT, a project by INL (International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory) from Portugal, Eroski (a Spanish supermarket chain) and 2BNanoFood from Portugal has been awarded EURO 485,000 of funds to develop an edible coating containing active herbal extracts to act as a protection of fruits and vegetables. They will then assess its performance in relation to how it may change the taste, smell and colour of food to ensure its acceptability in the consumer market, and verify whether such coating can act as a barrier against viruses and bacteria.
- Other projects that have been awarded funds in the Food Safety Risks category are: COVID19 BAEMitup (EURO 792,208 awarded) and PASS (EURO 667,000 awarded).
Further details on all of the fund recipient projects are available on the dedicated COVID-19 pages on the EIT Food website here.
Dr. Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food said:
“An impressive number of high-quality applications were assessed as part of EIT Food’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Call for Innovation, and we are very pleased with the final 13 that were chosen. They demonstrate the ingenuity and dedication of the agritech community in a time of great uncertainty and disruption, and we are as committed as ever before to supporting their resilience - as well as that of the wider European Food System. We look forward to the implementation of these urgently needed innovations to help the sector collectively respond to the pandemic and rebuild our economy sustainably.”
In August 2020, EIT Food will also announce the recipients of the COVID-19 Bridge Fund, which will help ventures adapt to the crisis and continue critical innovation activities whilst bridging the gap so they can secure follow-on funding. The aim is to provide timely financial support of between €200,000 and €500,000 to a select number of agricultural and food ventures that address one of EIT Food’s key focus areas. By deploying a rapid response mechanism, all EIT Crisis Response activities will be completed by the end of 2020 to help Europe recover.
These funding initiatives come on top of already-launched initiatives from across the whole EIT Food partner community to support the European food system through the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has included the launch of ‘Robin Food’, a soup brand in Belgium with EIT Food partners (and now a COVID-19 Rapid Response Call for Innovation recipient) that is using fresh surplus vegetables from farmers, and aims to distribute 20,000 litres to vulnerable families through food banks and social grocers. With learnings from the Robin Food program, similar initiatives are already being rolled out across other regions in Europe. In Spain for example, EIT Food has announced the ‘Los Salvacomidas’ (The Food Savers) initiative to provide over 60,000 healthy lunch boxes to children in need affected by the COVID crisis. EIT Food is also helping to improve the knowledge of the public by launching a free online course that is exploring how agrifood supply chains are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further information on the EIT Food COVID-19 response calls and the fund recipients can be found on the dedicated COVID-19 pages on the EIT Food website here.
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