NIAB to lead crop development in new Bezos Sustainable Protein Centre

25 Jun 2024
Soy bean
Bezos Earth Fund has announced the establishment of a new $30 million Sustainable Protein Centre, based at Imperial College London.

This will be one of multiple Earth Fund Centres working together with other institutions and industry partners in a $100 million commitment to developing sustainable protein alternatives and expanding consumer choice, as part of an overall $1 billion commitment to food transformation. The Bezos Sustainable Protein Centre will focus on three main areas of alternative protein production: cultured meat, precision fermentation and plant-based protein.

NIAB is a partner in the new Centre. Over recent years, NIAB has become the leader for the UK’s crop research community in plant transformation, gene editing, pre-breeding and pathology of cereal crops. NIAB will now use its expertise to build on these strengths to develop protein crops for this new, emerging sector.

NIAB project lead Dr Phil Howell says, “NIAB is well-placed to deliver impactful research for the plant protein sector. We have a unique presence all along the crop development pipeline, beginning with crop transformation, genetics, pathology and pre-breeding research, following right through to understanding agronomy and farming systems. NIAB works closely with breeders, farmers and other stakeholders to ensure new crop varieties are grown sustainably and profitably.

“We already have experience in faba bean and are now branching out into alternative legumes such as chickpea, lentil, soybean and lupin. We are used to working closely with industry, including through the NIAB-led Growing Kent and Medway consortium which recently delivered the UKRI Alternative Protein Roadmap,” adds Dr Howell.

Dr Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the Earth Fund says: “The Bezos Earth Fund is proud to support our second sustainable protein centre. By 2050 the world population will be over 10 billion, so now is the time to rethink the way we produce and consume food. This work will help ensure that our future includes more protein options – and that they taste great, are nutritious and come at low cost.”


The Centre’s hub will be based at Imperial, with three spokes in the UK and three abroad, with more than 65 international partners spanning cutting-edge research and innovation to commercialisation of new products.

The UK spokes are grouped under members of the Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub at UCL and Aberystwyth University, the Food Centre at Reading University, and the Growing Kent & Medway consortium involving NIAB and the Universities of Kent and Greenwich.

International spokes are hosted by the Technical University of Denmark (Biosustain), Tufts University (Centre for Cellular Agriculture), and the National University of Singapore.

The launch of the Bezos Centre for Sustainable Protein at Imperial follows the announcement of a sister centre last month at North Carolina State University, as part of the Bezos Earth Fund’s commitment to help transform food and agricultural systems, which also includes efforts to reduce livestock emissions.