Six new innovation hubs will be launched to create the Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club, including one based at Imperial.
Imperial's hub, based in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction and led by Professor Gary Frost, will be the Translational Innovation Hub for Population Health using Food and Nutrition approaches to enhance Positive Physiology (RIPEN Hub).
The RIPEN Hub will provide the environment and thought leadership to enable collaborations, work in synergy, and develop innovative solutions and translational pathways, and will be run in collaboration with Dr Sue Gatenby from PepsiCo and Prof. Susan Lanham-New from the University of Surrey.
"Our hub will look at the physical, economic, political and socio-cultural context in which consumers engage with the food system to make their decisions about acquiring, preparing and consuming food." Professor Gary Frost Head of Nutrition and Chair in Nutrition and Dietetics
From maximising the nutritional value of foods to better understanding what influences food choices and the relationship between food and health, the UK's six new innovation hubs will bring together world-class leaders from academia, industry and wider stakeholders to address shared barriers to innovation across the food and drink sector.
Poor diet has a huge impact on public health. As recently highlighted in the Government Food Strategy, there remains a major challenge in producing and encouraging the uptake of healthier, more nutritious food products in the UK.
Led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with support from DEFRA, Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC), the new Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club (OIRC) represents an investment of almost £15m into research and innovation that will help address the critical, shared barriers to innovation across the food and drink sector.
This new funding forms part of the recently announced of BBSRC and Innovate UKs strategic partnership.
The new innovation hubs will support and drive progress across one or more of the following strategic priority areas:
- Understanding the interplay between food components and human physiology
- Improving health and nutrition through biofortification
- Biological, social and psychological determinants of food choice and eating behaviour
- Development of functional foods and beverages
- Understanding how food and beverages deliver improved nutrition across the life-course.
Each Innovation Hub will build cross-sector collaborative networks to improve the UK’s capacity and capability and deliver world-class innovation around diet and health.
Speaking about the RIPEN Hub, Professor Frost said: "The UK has a major public health problem with the continued rise in diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Many of these are directly related to the food we eat. Our Innovation Hub brings together world-class leaders from academia, industry and civil society to better understand what is causing ill health within the food environment and what can be changed in our current food system to avoid this and keep people healthy and well.
"Our hub will look at the physical, economic, political and socio-cultural context in which consumers engage with the food system to make their decisions about acquiring, preparing and consuming food, to make a significant change in our understanding of the relationship between food and physiology."
RIPEN Hub Manager, Dr Katerina Petropoulou, said: "The Hub’s ultimate aim is to bring the major players in the food physiology space together to support the development of healthier diets, thereby enhancing the Health of the Nation. It will also aim to create new pathways that prevent the development of obesity and other non-communicable diseases in the UK population."
The government's Food Minister, Rt Hon Mark Spencer, said: “I am delighted that scientists and experts can now come together in these new innovation hubs to convene the latest science around obesity and healthy eating. Together they can work to close the knowledge gaps between current dietary trends and obesity, whilst improving our understanding of the relationship between food and health. Supporting this research is part of our commitment in the Food Strategy to boost healthier, more sustainable and accessible diets."
The RIPEN Hub team is currently looking for people to join the hub from academia, industry, and civil society. Please get in touch if you would like to get involved or would like to know more.
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