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New healthy eating research hub launches in Bristol

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1 December 2022
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A new innovation hub looking to improve public through diet is launching in Bristol as part of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) new Diet and Health Innovation Research Club.

It is one of six new hubs formed by the BBSRC in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC), founded on a nearly £15 million investment, aiming to dissolve barriers to innovation in the food and drink sector.

With the Government’s recent food strategy highlighting the effect of poor diets on public health, the six hubs will facilitate collaboration between leaders in academia, industry and wider stake-holders, advancing progress in one or more of the following 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.

Dr Lee Beniston FRSB, Associate Director for Industry Partnerships and Collaboration at BBSRC, said: “The OIRC is a new approach for BBSRC that provides an open innovation platform for businesses, researchers and wider government stakeholders to work together on a diverse range of research and innovation priorities.

“Our partnership with Innovate UK, Defra and MRC greatly enhances what the programme can achieve while also providing a strong connectivity to national strategy and policy. This will ultimately help to deliver wider benefits to an industry that is a key part of the UK economy.”

Richard Hebdon, Director of Health and Life Sciences at Innovate UK, said: “Innovate UK’s investment in the BBSRC-led Diet and Health OIRC supports our investment in the £20 million Better Food for All programme.

“Together these programmes will provide funding to support strategic, collaborative research and development between businesses, researchers, policymakers and wider stakeholders in the important area of diet and health, helping to bridge the gap between research and translation.

“This is another fantastic investment that builds on Innovate UK’s strong strategic partnership with BBSRC to support collaboration between business and the UK research base.”

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The University of Bristol’s hub will focus on consumer behaviour, looking to forge academic industry partnerships to promote acceptance of healthy foods, with consideration to the packaging, labelling and availability of products.

It will look to explore new methods of data capture, including taking images of food intake in real-time and wearable monitoring devices, along with prioritising methods and research aimed at looking at choice of food in underrepresented communities in an effort to address their specific needs.

Dr Laura Dickens, Associate Director for Industry Partnerships at MRC, said: “We are pleased to participate in this partnership supporting ambitious new research as part of our priorities to address important nutrition and health challenges and broaden our support for industry-academia partnerships.

“Establishing these innovation hubs will enable new research collaborations in this field to foster innovative approaches to solve an important public health issue that affects all of us. MRC support towards establishing the Brunstrom hub in particular will benefit underrepresented communities.”

Food Minister 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.”

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Sam is the Regional Editor of Biz News, responsible for both Hampshire and Dorset.

A new recruit to journalism, Sam started writing for the Business Magazine as a freelancer in May of 2022 after completing his degree in English at University College London. His passion for local businesses and ability to tell a story soon caught the attention of the publication’s management team and have led to his meteoric rise.

Sam, who lives in central Reading, takes a particular interest in technology, gaming and food and drink, having been a chef before starting his degree.

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