Funding priorities at the Good Food Institute Europe: what additional impact will be created by marginal grants to GFI Europe?
The Good Food Institute is a non-profit think tank helping to build a more sustainable, secure and just food system by transforming meat production. We work with scientists, businesses and policymakers to advance plant-based and cultivated meat and precision-fermented food – making these alternative proteins delicious, affordable and accessible. By making meat from plants and cultivating it from cells, we can reduce the environmental impact of our food system and address the welfare of animals in industrial animal agriculture. Founded on effective altruism principles, GFI identifies and advances high-impact, achievable solutions in areas where too few people are working. We focus on what is needed most and provide the talent and resources necessary to have the biggest impact possible.
GFI is a global network of six organisations focused on one vision: creating a world where alternative proteins are no longer alternative. We are powered by philanthropy and we are currently fundraising to seed our collective 2024 budget, with a gap to goal of $12.7 million, as of today. Within that, GFI Europe has a funding gap of 1.5million EUR that will allow us to have substantial additional counterfactual impact in 2024.
The Good Food Institute Europe (GFI Europe) is an affiliate of the Good Food Institute and has been identified as a priority area for GFI’s growth over the next couple of years. As Senior Philanthropy Manager for GFI Europe, in response to this post, I thought it would be helpful to expand upon why this is the case and to use GFI Europe as an example of how we would leverage marginal increases in funding to generate as much impact as possible in this region, and by extension, globally.
While I am shining a light on GFI Europe in this post, in every region where we operate, our global teams identify and advance good food solutions. All of our growth is carefully planned to ensure that we can have the greatest possible impact on the ecosystem as a whole.
Why expansion in Europe is an urgent priority for GFI
GFI’s global priority is to unlock $10.1billion in public funding for alternative proteins ($4.4bn for R&D; $5.7 towards commercialisation), $1.5 billion of which we believe could come from Europe. Each additional hire, most directly in our Policy and Science & Technology teams, increases the likelihood of unlocking this funding, especially if equipped with evidence and research in support of the benefits and feasibility of alternative proteins. In other words, each marginal increase in funding for GFI Europe has the potential to leverage much greater sums in R&D funding. Unlocking R&D funding is on the critical path for plant-based and cultivated meat to reach taste and price parity and to become the default choice for consumers, so is an urgent priority.
In addition to this, political opposition in Europe presents a particular—and, arguably, existential—risk to alternative proteins. The risk to a more sustainable and just future of food is not simply that the potential funding fails to be unlocked, but that political opponents could derail attempts to achieve regulatory approval for novel alternative proteins. With applications for regulatory approval of cultivated meat beginning to appear on the horizon and countries considering their climate and food strategies, now is a critical time to ensure that we can take advantage of opportunities and mitigate risks. Indeed, with alternative proteins firmly on the policy agenda, and decision-makers trying to make up their minds about what position to take on them, the next few years are likely to set the course for decades to come for alternative proteins in Europe.
In such a neglected space, GFI Europe’s ability to track and respond adequately to existential hurdles for alternative proteins is crucial to their success.
How GFI Europe would spend marginal increases in funding
GFI Europe would spend marginal increases in available funding on two main categories—additional staffing capacity, and research projects which respond to specific gaps and needs of stakeholders on the critical path for alternative protein adoption. Below, I have expanded on this to illustrate the difference an uplift of 1.5m EUR to our 2024 budget would make for each programmatic team in GFI Europe, compared to the budget remaining the same as it was in 2023, as well as what we would do with marginal funding above this level.
We have already seen coordinated and well-funded opposition to alternative proteins in countries such as Italy, France, and Romania. To identify, mitigate and counter such opposition most effectively, GFI Europe’s policy team urgently needs increased capacity. Specifically, we need eyes, ears and a voice on the ground at a national level in as many European countries as possible, as well as the general capacity to be responsive to opportunities and risks in countries where we do not yet have a presence. An example of the impact of this model is in Italy where, in the face of the bill banning cultivated meat, GFI’s political engagement has helped pave the way to establish a mechanism for periodically reviewing the necessity and proportionality of the law in light of the available scientific literature.
Team members based in and with expertise in specific European countries will also be more attuned to and able to respond to positive opportunities as they arise, such as funding calls or relevant government strategies. They will also have the networks and language skills to build local coalitions of allies for alternative proteins which leverage our influence and reach further. For example, our two-person team in Germany has engaged with the country’s Bioeconomy Strategy and National Food Strategy, gained force-multiplying positive media coverage for alternative proteins, and published the first State of the Industry report for alternative proteins in Germany, which contains 15 actionable policy recommendations. Just this week, the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag announced €38 million in funding in 2024 for the sustainable protein transition—an initiative which GFI Europe actively helped to shape and initiate.
Replicating this model in other promising countries would help unlock some of the 80% of research funding in Europe which is awarded at the national level. It is also important to be able to mobilise countries that champion alternative proteins, for example Denmark, to counter countries where there’s opposition. The potential impact of even one team member per country represents a high return on philanthropic investment, considering the influence and funding they could unlock.
The impact of the national-level policy team members would be significantly enhanced by a corresponding additional member of the communications team working closely alongside them to maximise media coverage relating to their work. For example, in-country communications capacity can elevate policy reports, like Germany’s State of the Industry report or the UK’s ecosystem review, leading to proactive outreach from policymakers as well as increased responsiveness to our own lobbying efforts.
Similarly, our Science and Technology (SciTech) team works hand-in-hand with our Policy team with the goal of unlocking $1.5billion in R&D funding for plant-based and cultivated meat. They support conversations with policymakers by explaining the science behind alternative proteins—how they are made and their benefits for climate and health goals. They also ensure that existing funding is unlocked for alternative protein research by working closely with scientists to build proposals in response to funding calls. So far, due to most of our SciTech team happening to be based in the UK, the majority of this work has been either in the UK (example here) or at EU-level (example here). With 80% of research funding in Europe available at a national level from governments, there is obvious potential to expand this work geographically and unlock multiples more in funding than the cost of these additional roles.
Once again, growth in our communications team can help funding opportunities to reach more scientists, building the scientific ecosystem around alternative proteins, and promote the outcome of existing research so that governments see the benefits of investing in research and innovation funding for alternative proteins. The bigger and more geographically diverse the communications team, the wider their reach (and impact) will be.
If our budget remains unchanged in 2024 (circa 2.5m EUR):
Our work at a national level would flatline: we would not be able to expand to any other important countries and may have to scale back our existing work in Germany, the UK, Italy (currently a temporary contract, so unlikely to be renewed in this scenario) and Spain, and at an EU-level in Brussels.
We would not be able to pursue promising new policy workstreams, only to continue our work on funding, regulation, labelling and NGO engagement.
Our communications work across the continent, publishing relevant press releases and reaching out to journalists, would be reactive but limited.
Our SciTech work would also flatline: we would continue building the scientific ecosystem and unlocking more funding, but within our current limitations on scale.
If we raise enough before the end of 2023 to enable our budget to increase to 4m EUR in 2024, we will be able to:
hire a policy manager to focus on a new high-priority region of Europe (potentially Scandinavia).
hire a research manager focused on a new workstream—managing research projects to support our lobbying (further details below).
hire a policy manager focused on a new workstream of unlocking infrastructure funding for alternative proteins.
hire a policy officer in Brussels to provide additional capacity to respond to opportunities and threats as they arise.
hire national-level policy consultants in two additional countries.
hire a communications assistant to increase general capacity in the communications team.
hire communications manager for Southern Europe to support our policy manager for Spain.
hire another regional communications manager to support the policy manager above (potentially Scandinavia).
create two new roles in our SciTech team focused on unlocking funding and on super-charging the academic ecosystem to enable multiple streams of our scitech work.
make two new hires in our pan-European Corporate Engagement team to focus on unblocking the neglected and important bottlenecks which are upstream in the supply chain, and to improve how alternative protein companies commercialise.
Marginal increases in funding above this level would enable:
Policy work in additional European countries: to achieve a minimum level of coverage in each European country not already accounted for, via hiring national-level consultants or well-coordinated grant-funded partnership work, would cost around 800,000 EUR.
More responsive communications work: either via hiring in multiple countries following the policy team’s model, or hiring additional generalist, flexible roles to respond to opportunities and risks as they arise.
Our Science and Technology team to grow geographically and in technology-specific expertise: 195,000 EUR would enable us to hire in three more regions of Europe, for example.
GFI Europe’s work is science and evidence-based and research super-charges the work of all our programmatic teams. Having crucial data and evidence on hand to provide to key stakeholders and decision-makers, whether in the public or private domain, makes success more likely. Increasing the amount of research we can undertake is therefore the other main way we would leverage increased funding to create impact.
With an increased budget, our policy team would develop a new workstream focused on research in support of our lobbying goals. The research we would like to conduct is informed by questions that our policy team receives time and time again from policymakers who are positively inclined towards alternative proteins but feel there are evidence gaps to fill prior to making significant funding or policy decisions.
In 2023, we were able to commission one such project focused on the land use benefits of alternative proteins. It answers questions about how much land would be freed up under different scenarios, depending on to what extent alternative proteins displaced conventional animal meat. The report is due to be published in early 2024, but already the hook provided by this new data is unlocking engagement with policymakers across Europe and enabling us to shape conversations positively. We therefore believe further research into other key questions will supercharge our lobbying. We require increased funding not only for commissioning the research itself, but also to hire a dedicated research manager to oversee this workstream.
So, too, are detailed analyses a priority for our corporate engagement team. In 2023, we published retail sales data for plant-based sales in Europe for the first time. The data and invaluable insights in these reports have helped to maintain confidence in alternative proteins among leaders in the private sector, in the face of some negative narratives about plant-based sales in Europe. This information has also been critical in our communications work, providing us with evidence-based insights that can push back against negative media narratives.
If our budget remains unchanged in 2024 (circa 2.5m EUR), we will be able to again publish updated retail sales data. We will also be able to conduct infrastructure investment analysis—a priority, in order to best equip our incoming infrastructure investment manager with the data they need to support their role. We will not be able to expand our policy work to include a research workstream under this budget scenario.
If we raise enough before the end of 2023 to enable our budget to increase to 4m EUR in 2024, we will be able to:
commission research to answer the question, What can governments do to facilitate a just transition to alt proteins? - this would not only help to ensure a just transition, but would equip our policy team with answers to a key concern of policymakers.
develop an alternative proteins policy plan for two priority countries—this would support the lobbying work of our in-country policy managers by mapping the alternative protein ecosystem in each country and identifying the country’s comparative advantage in the alternative protein space, evidencing the benefits of alternative proteins for that country, and making concrete policy recommendations which can be adopted by the government.
draw out business models for farmers who want to transition to alternative proteins, helping with a just transition.
Marginal increases in funding above this level (at a rate of roughly 50,000 EUR per project on average) would enable us to undertake further research projects in support of our programmatic work, including:
commission research to provide evidence to the question, do alternative proteins displace conventional meat in the marketplace or would they do so if taste and price markers were met? - this would help prove to governments that investing in alternative proteins will help them to meet their climate and health targets.
analytical reports to solve a particular scientific knowledge gap in alternative protein R&D.
bibliometric and topic modelling to understand trends in scientific research in Europe, and what is being neglected—this will inform how we can most effectively spend future resources (time and money).
consultancy to build a roadmap of scientific milestones to taste and price parity, using other fields/sectors as a comparison.
GFI has grown significantly since our early days, in great part thanks to the gift support of those in the Effective Altruism community.
Within this context, GFI Europe is very much still in the ‘start-up’ phase of growth. I hope to have demonstrated above that there is an urgent and important need for growth in Europe and marginal increases in funding can make a tangible difference to what we can achieve. Our room for more funding and impactful programs have been validated across cause areas, by evaluators and advisers such as Animal Charity Evaluators, Founder’s Pledge, Giving Green, Effectiv Spenden, Doneer Effectief and Charity Navigator.
Each additional role or research project meets an important, neglected and tractable need on the path to our overall mission to make alternative proteins the default choice. Therefore, every marginal increase in funding represents further advancement of plant-based and cultivated meat and reduced farmed animal suffering and mitigating climate change, pandemic risk, antibiotic resistance.
If you have questions on any of the above, please feel free to email me, and if this has motivated you to support GFI or GFI Europe specifically, you can make a gift here or please reach out to me at europe[hyphen]philanthropy[at]gfi[dot]org. We would be delighted to have your partnership in reaching our goal of improving life for animals, people and the planet.
Please note that specific roles mentioned below are intended to illustrate the potential impact of increased funding, and to provide insight into our current plans. They are subject to change, as GFI Europe remains nimble and flexible to respond to changing circumstances.
GFI Europe engages in rigorous ITN analysis to decide which countries are the highest priority. For example, our Head of Policy considers which countries are high risk in terms of their attitudes towards alternative proteins, and which countries carry most weight in the EU. We have also conducted research projects in the past to identify countries with the most potential R&D funding and which have the biggest scientific communities focused on alternative proteins or adjacent scientific research.
In an ideal world, we would have more than minimum coverage in each European country—we would have policy, scitech and communications capacity. Hiring for such an increased number of roles would also require an uplift in our people operations capacity and, likely also our fundraising capacity to ensure this growth was sustainable.
In reality, before hiring or contracting someone in each and every European country, we would be more likely to hire second or third team members based in higher-priority or higher-risk countries. Therefore, this calculation is not entirely accurate and is intended only to give an example of the scale of GFI Europe’s room for more funding while being able to generate impact in line with marginal increases in funding. It is also quite likely that GFI as a whole would calculate that amounts over 5m EUR in 2024 could create more impact if assigned to other GFI affiliates, such as GFI Asia-Pacific, which is another priority area for growth in 2024. This is why GFI prefers unrestricted donations, which can be allocated to any affiliate based on a rigorous ITN analysis.