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North East project to make low-cost cultivated meat gets £500k

lab-grown meat project
Image credit: Kitreel / Shutterstock

Innovate UK has awarded £500,000 in grant funding to support a project to develop lab-grown meat in the North East.

Three groups in the North East – the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) in Redcar and MarraBio and Aelius Biotech in Newcastle – will jointly receive funding to collaborate on the low-emissions food project.

The cultivated meat industry grew by 400% in the UK in 2022. And while more recent figures haven’t kept pace, there remains a healthy appetite for the sector. Industry barriers include regulatory issues and production costs.

The goal of the state-backed initiative is to develop a new low-emission production method that can meet the demands of the food industry at a lower cost than current methods.

The project will use engineered protein materials produced by MarraBio, which the biotech spinout claims significantly reduces the cost compared with materials currently used in larger-scale production of cultivated meat.

MarraBio engineers protein building blocks that contain the “biological messages” that cells need to grow and divide. The blocks then assemble into long chains that provide material for cells to grow on.

According to the company, these cells can then be grown on an industrial scale for food production.

“Food production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Ensuring a sustainable food industry that is fit for the future is a challenge we know we must act on now if we are going to reach our ambition of becoming net zero,” said CPI biologics director Brendan Fish.

Fish said the project is “another step towards establishing the North East as the UK’s hub for greener food production systems”.

Other notable players in the UK cultivated meat market include Hoxton Farms and Uncommon, formerly Higher Steaks, which last year raised £23.9m in a round featuring OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.